SHELBY – The city of Shelby is considering installing fencing along the bridge on Whitney Avenue to deter suicide attempts.
The measure was discussed under "unfinished business" at Shelby City Council on Monday, but is expected to appear as legislation at a future meeting. Councilman Garland Gates volunteered to sponsor such legislation.
Deputy Director of Public Service and Director of Utilities John Ensman shared on Monday that installing such fencing would cost the city approximately $15,950.
According to Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs, there has only been one suicide attempt at the bridge since his tenure as chief began in 2015.
The bridge spans across the CSX railroad tracks.
The most public suicide attempt at the Whitney Avenue bridge was on Nov. 10, 2018, when officers from the Shelby Police Department were sent to the bridge in regards to a male who was sitting on the bridge with his legs over the bridge.
Officers John Guisinger and Sean Nolen responded to the call, with Nolen arriving first. Upon his arrival, Nolen observed a male standing on the outside of the bridge guardrail, over the railroad tracks.
Nolen spoke to the male who indicated he wanted to commit suicide. While Nolen continued to talk with the male, Guisinger parked some distance away, and approached the bridge on foot from the opposite side.
Officers Nolen and Guisinger, using hand gestures, developed a plan to pull the male from the bridge. Nolen told the male that he was going to leave to call the male’s girlfriend and began to walk away. As he did so, the male was temporarily distracted by Guisinger, and Nolen grabbed and pulled the male off of the ledge to safety. The male was taken into custody and transported to the hospital for assistance.
"Both officers should excellent initiative, compassion and bravery in saving the male from serious harm to himself, and their actions are a credit to themselves and the Shelby Police Department," Combs stated in a press release.
This isn't the first fencing of its kind considered in Ohio. The All-America Bridge in Akron, also known as the Y-Bridge, was the site of at least one suicide per year. In 2009, city officials announced that they planned to use federal funds to erect fencing on the bridge to prevent suicides, which averaged two to three per year. The barrier was completed in 2011.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, restricting access to lethal means, such as erecting barriers on bridges, is one of the two most effective ways to prevent suicide. The other way is to train physicians to recognize and treat suicidal behavior.