Fence-in High Level Bridge, pleads husband of suicide victim

An Edmonton businessman described how his wife took her life on the High Level Bridge while making an impassioned plea to city councillors to erect barriers along the railings.

'Every month that goes by represents one or two more lives,' Dan Klemke says

Dan Klemke wants the city to make it more difficult to people to take their own lives on the High Level Bridge. Klemke's wife, Marilyn, ended her life in 2013. (CBC)

An Edmonton businessman described on Monday how his wife took her life on the High Level Bridge while making an impassioned plea to city councillors to erect barriers along the railings.

"The High Level Bridge has been a monument to tragedy for as long as I can remember and we're about to embark on a project to light the bridge to try to make it a place of celebration," said Dan Klemke. "I implore you to stand with me and complete the job by adding a proper impediment to further tragedy."

Klemke told councillors his wife Marilyn experienced a severe reaction to her travel immunizations and subsequent related prescription medicine late in 2012.

She jumped from the bridge on Jan. 2, 2013.

Klemke said it's too easy for people acting on impulse to jump from the bridge. He brought along a sample of the west railing made by a friend to show how councillors how easy it was to climb.

"I was unable to bring myself to go anywhere near the bridge until Dec. 7th," he said. "I went armed with a tape measure and a rose."

The west rail is covered with iron mesh, but rather than providing even a slight impediment, it is "actually perfectly designed to provide stable and secure footing that even a child could climb," he said.  

Klemke proposed extending and painting the chain link fencing — already on the north end of the bridge over River Road — which would be faster and cheaper than a more expensive option.

"Every month that goes by represents one or two more lives," he said. "Undoubtedly, even if we put an impediment there some people will find another way to end their life ... but we need to remove the easy impulsive option the bridge currently affords." 

His story drew tears from some councillors and changed the mind of Mayor Don Iveson.

"I was hesitant about the barrier until today and now I'm starting to think that maybe we do need to pursue that."

But he said whatever barrier is decided on must be aesthetic and functional.

A report outlining some detailed options will be prepared for May.

In the meantime the city will install call boxes on the High Level Bridge connected to the 24-hour Distress Line.

The $20,000 cost will be absorbed in the budget.

With files from CBC's Lydia Neufeld


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