Tragedy at new Hoover Dam bridge: First suicide reported

LAS VEGAS -- In what authorities are calling the first confirmed suicide at the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge, a 60-year-old San Jose woman leaped to her death from the 900-foot-high span Saturday.

Federal police had attempted to convince her to step back from a precipice along the pedestrian walkway, but to no avail.

The victim was identified as Patricia Oakley of San Jose, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rose Davis said Tuesday. Oakley’s body was found downstream Sunday by Colorado River kayakers.

Authorities said they hoped the grim development would not color the reputation of the span, with two concrete arches that stretch 1,060 feet across Black Canyon, just downstream from Hoover Dam.

“Hoover Dam sees almost a million people a year and most of them enjoy the remarkable views from that walkway,” said Davis. “This is a terrible tragedy but I’d like to echo the words of a colleague who said that somebody who decides to kill themselves is going to find a way to do it.”

Completed in late 2010 at a cost of $240 million, the graceful span known by many as the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, links Nevada and Arizona along U.S. Highway 93.

The bridge quickly became a tourist draw for the Las Vegas area, popular as the longest bridge of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and the second-tallest bridge in the United States after the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, federal transportation officials say.

The bridge is named after former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire.

Officers spent nearly 30 minutes trying to calm Oakley before she jumped to her death Saturday night. Police had been alerted that she was on the pedestrian walkway, behaving erratically.

Although officials had discussed the possibility of erecting a suicide barrier during construction of the span, they eventually decided that not even such precautions would prevent those intent on committing suicide.


Destined to be great? 13-year-old grabs wheel, saves school bus

Trayvon Martin case: Want to help George Zimmerman? He hopes so

Mega Millions: Maryland winners are all school (not McDonald’s) employees