A controversial barrier installed on the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge six months ago was supposed to end the decades of heartbreak that resulted from dozens of people making fatal leaps from the scenic span.
But this week a 30-year-old Santa Monica man somehow foiled the best efforts of law enforcement and highway engineers, and committed suicide by jumping from the bridge, according to Sgt. Mark Williams, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
“There were no witnesses, so we don’t know exactly how he got over/past the barrier,” Williams said late Friday.
Deputies were called out at about 1:40 a.m. Monday, and found the victim dead on Stagecoach Road, which winds down Cold Spring Canyon below the bridge, he said.
The man was later identified as Peter Stefan Roycewicz of Santa Monica, Williams said.
Roycewicz’s vehicle was found near the bridge, said Williams, adding that his death was believed to be a suicide.
The Cold Spring Canyon Bridge suicide barrier was completed in March, after years of controversy and passionate argument on both sides with a result heralded by public-safety and mental-health officials.
Spanning 1,148 feet over a canyon on Highway 154 just north of San Marcos Pass, the steel arch bridge is the largest of its kind in California, and treats drivers to stunning views of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Tragically, 55 people have taken their lives from the bridge since it was built in 1964, including eight deaths in 2009.
Caltrans proposed the 9-foot-7-inch mesh fence-style barrier in 2005, and got federal stimulus funding after a swap between highway projects done by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
The project faced CEQA-related civil challenges from the citizens group Friends of the Bridge, which contested Caltrans’ public review process and barrier design. Although the challenge delayed the project for at least a year, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Tom Anderle ruled in Caltrans’ favor and construction began Jan. 17.
Cost of the project was $3.2 million, according to Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers.
The barrier was supported by the Sheriff’s Department and the Glendon Association, a Santa Barbara-based mental health research and training organization, for being a preventive measure against suicides.
The Sheriff’s Department has estimated it dispatched deputies to about 160 incidents on the bridge between 2001 and 2009, and officials say that any call that puts responders on the bridge at all is potentially dangerous.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, overall suicide risk factors include:
» Depression, mental disorder or substance-abuse disorder. More than 90 percent who die by suicide have these risk factors.
» Family history of suicide
» Family history of mental disorders
» Family violence such as physical or sexual abuse
For children and adolescents, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry lists these warning signs:
» Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
» Neglecting personal appearance
» Frequent physical complaints, stomach aches, headaches
» Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sports, games
Other free, 24-hour Santa Barbara County services are CARES/ACCESS at 1.888.868.1649 or the SAFTY (Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth) Mobile Crisis Team Hotline at 1.888.334.2777.
» The Glendon Association: 805.681.0415. The nonprofit organization describes its mission as addressing social problems of suicide, child abuse, violence and troubled interpersonal relationships to enhance mental health and save lives.
» The free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.8255.