French King Bridge suicide prevention measures

GILL, Mass. (WWLP) – State and local officials in Franklin County are trying to install suicide prevention measures on the French King Bridge.

The French King Bridge that crosses the Connecticut River between Gill and Erving is a destination for many people to come sightseeing, but it has also been a place people commit suicide. Now officials are looking at installing cameras and possibly fences or netting.

“It’s a nice view it’s a shame that they have to think about that but I don’t know how well cameras would work. I mean by the time you make a phone call it might be too late,” Shawn Slowey, of Dighton said.

Chief of the Gill Police Department, David Hastings said, “Many times we’ll get calls to this bridge when someone may have jumped off or may not have and a camera would allow us to look back and see if somebody actually did.”

Chief Hastings said police recently dealt with a call from an elderly man that reported two men had jumped off the bridge, and he believed he had seen them die.  Officers found that the two men had parachuted off the bridge and they were later charged with disorderly conduct, Hastings said.

While many people like to stop and take pictures of the beautiful scenery some police officers don’t look at it the same anymore. There’s been two suicides, six attempted and at least 20 reports of potential suicides in the last year, and it has taken a toll on the local police departments.

Chief Christopher Blair of the Erving Police Department said, “”I have five full time officers and what ends up happening when they get this type of call is you get just a few guys dealing with a lot of calls and the mental health aspect of it for these officers is very difficult for these officers it’s very traumatic.”

While 22News was interviewing both local police Chiefs there were reports from concerned residents that someone may be too close to the edge.  It turned out to be another person trying to get a photo.

Police say the most frustrating issue is following up with people that have attempted suicide, because there is no universal system between the local or state police departments to show if a person has a history of mental instability or if they get mental help afterwards.

Wesley Brown, of South Deerfield said, “It’s a tough one I think no matter what they do people are determined they’re still going to find a way. But maybe just not here.”

The Samaritans suicide hotline posted on the Bridge is 877-870-4673.

You can find more helpful information on suicide prevention here.

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