Holgate Street Crossing in June

In tragic news, on Thursday around 12:42 pm, a man was struck fatally by a northbound Link train while crossing against multiple warning signals at S Holgate St in SODO. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled the death a suicide, the Seattle Times reports. This is Link’s second fatality since it opened in July 2009. The first fatality was also a suicide that occurred in the same area shortly after Link opened.

43 Replies to “Second Suicide by Link on Thursday”

  1. They’re gating up the Aurora bridge, so I suppose the suicidal have to find somewhere else to kill themselves. It’s not like someone with this mindset is going to see the gate and say “oh well, I guess I have to live”.

    Watch Sound Transit add more gates, and we’ll see an increase of people stepping in front of buses.

    1. “and we’ll see an increase of people stepping in front of buses”

      Lovely. Something to look forward to. I suspect stepping in front of buses would have a low success rate for the suicidal. We bus drivers are a suspicious lot when it comes to people standing close to the street. We can swerve or slow down to the point where we would be able to stop. Also, rubber wheels tend to run OVER you while steel wheels on a train… Well, you get the idea.

      Has there been a “suicide by bus” in Seattle? I can think of fatalities but none that were suicides.

      And for the record, Metro has no specific training on avoiding the suicidal. Errant toe-dangling pedestrians in general, yes. Specifically suicidal, no.

      1. Last Sat. suicide by bus. Young woman drove head on into bus on the First Ave. bridge. Just after midnight on New Years.

      2. @Bob: The time/date suggests drunk as hell more than suicidal. Or has the medical examiner made an official ruling? (I can’t find any news stories beyond the initial crash reports.)

      3. @Andraos;
        I don’t know. Haven’t seen what the official ruling is. Saw the pictures of the crash, straight on. Impulse, drunk? Didn’t seem like a drift over into the on coming lane. Hoping the bus driver is OK.

      4. How would we even RECOGNIZE an increase? People step in front of my bus about 6 times a day, usually crossing between buses stepping into an unseen lane of traffic.

      5. I love during rush hour when you guys (bus drivers) are coming into 3rd & 4th, and some dip shit almost stands in the street or too close and the driver lays on the horn.

        …In essence SAVING THEIR LIVES!!! Everyday you guys are like silent heroes! Light rail drivers too. People just don’t realize how lucky they are that you drivers are a resilient bunch. Often a thankless job – so want to tell all of you thanks!

    2. FWIW, suicide prevention advocates generally agree that bridge suicides are more impulsive than other types, and the folks who will be prevented from jumping off Aurora by the new fence aren’t likely to go and kill themselves elsewhere by another means. Folks likely won’t say, “oh well, I guess I’ll have to live”, but they are also unlikely to say, “oh well, I guess I’ll have to find another way to kill myself”. Take away the bridge, and they’ll just continue to wallow until eventually the depression passes and they go on with their lives.

      Whether train suicides are the same type of impulsive, I don’t know. Maybe if you take away trains, they will start trying buses. But the high speeds, the inability to swerve, and the long stopping distances would seem to be key points of appeal for train suicides, and buses are generally wanting on all those counts.

      1. In Japan, one of top ten countries in suicide rate, jumping in front of a train is one of the most of common ways of ending one’s life. It’s so common that the railways have been installing automatic platform gates and barriers to prevent it. Suicide deaths there are 3x the deaths in automobile accidents.

      2. More impulsive than slitting your wrists or hanging yourself? It seems to me that people who want to kill themselves – even impulsively – are going to find a way to do it. The (IIRC $7M) Aurora fences were clearly just meant to free people living below from having to deal with suicides. Which is fine, as long as we’re honest about that. But dressing it up as “suicide prevention” just seemed like a way to get the government to pay for it.

        At least we’ve gone in the correct direction in this state for what I see as the real answer – medically reviewed legal suicides. Clean, discreet, dignified, with a support mechanism built in to spot mental issues. We’ll need to loosen the laws up a bit to get people to use the system rather than go around it, but it’s a good first step.

      3. [Oran] Interesting. Maybe that’s why the subways in the stations in Seoul are all walled off from the platforms (I haven’t been to Japan). It makes the subways very clean and comparatively quiet.

      4. Or for an example close to home, Seattle Center Monorail at Westlake due to risks of falling down to the street below. The platform screen doors (floor to ceiling type) also keep the air conditioning from leaking into the tunnels for tropical systems in Singapore and Bangkok.

        These systems don’t completely prevent suicides or accidents. In a few cases, people can get caught between the platform and train doors.

      5. Matt, As an engineer, I assume you like numbers. Read some of the studies that have been done on suicide barriers. Chock full of numbers that refute the idea that these folks will just find another way to do it. Suicide prevention barriers prevent suicides.

        People who are against the fence love to mention the price tag, as if the lives saved don’t have any value. But they do, even in the purely actuarial sense: the folks who don’t kill themselves have the pleasure of continuing to work and pay taxes until they die another way, probably from natural causes. As you point out, there’s also the savings to companies that no longer have to employ therapists or lose workers to “mental health days”. There’s the savings to taxpayers from not having to stop traffic on a major highway and pay cops OT to talk down suicidals. And there’s the less tangible savings for residents and workers who have to witness the events. I don’t claim to’ve crunched all the numbers, so I can’t with any certainty if this is money well spent. But I doubt you’ve done the math either, so parenthetically tossing out the $7M price tag as if it means anything seems a bit disingenuous.

        And you bring up the legal suicide system, but as you point out, such a system is designed to only allow a very small number of folks to kill themselves each year. The vast majority of folks who suicide don’t do it because they have terminal cancer. They do it because they have the sort of mental issues that would prevent a legal suicide. Such a system is far from a “real answer” for preventing suicides to any great extent.

        Now, I don’t think a suicide prevention fence is a “real answer” either, or even that there can be such a thing. There will always be suicides. But everything I’ve seen says that this fence will prevent some suicides, and in my book that is a good first step.

  2. When I get off the Sounder, I have to drive across the tracks.

    All the time, I see people, who get stuck at the red light…waiting on the tracks or letting the front or tail of their car straddle the tracks.

    This is in the afternoon during a busy time for freight trains as well as more Sounders.

    I always stop on the one side of the road, make sure there is enough room in the lane on the other for a full car length before crossing.

  3. I had a close call at the Holgate Street crossing early last fall which appeared similar to this event except for the outcome. The fact that the individual entered the rail right of way early enough for me to throw the anchor out in time to bring the train to a stop is why that one went unnoticed.

    Is inattention considered suicide? In my case the individual somehow did not realize that a train was approaching despite crossing arms, warning bells and train horn. In fact I experience several incidents every day where but not for my train horn people would walk in front of my train ignoring all the warning devices indicating my approach. Why this “suicide” is any different is beyond my understanding.

    I hope the operator involved is dealing with the aftermath OK as I cannot imagine having a front row seat to an incident like this. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased.

    1. I walked behind an individual crossing the tracks at Stadium station who started crossing the first set of tracks, as many of us did, once one train had passed but failed to stop at the 2nd set of tracks as a train from the opposite direction came barreling down on him. He figured it out at the last second and darted out of the way, probably due to the train’s horn.

      Short of people darting in front of my bus, that was one of the scariest things I’ve seen. I was sure he was going to get hit.

      Any reason why Sound Transit hasn’t installed gates at the stadium station crossing?

      Also: Is doing an Emergency Stop of a Link train a one button operation or is it more complicated?

      1. I believe ST installed ped gates only at Holgate because the trains are moving at full speed (40mph) at that location. At Royal Brougham and Lander, there are stations next to those streets and the trains are moving slower, just pulling into or out of the station

      2. Actually, there are pedestrian gates at SODO Station. It helped me clue in to the fact that a northbound train was coming once as I was about to cross to the other platform.

      3. The crowds get huge both before and after stadium games. I imagine that ST found themselves liable if they installed gates, in case someone was crushed against them. There is usually an ST supervisor stationed on both sides when pedestrian traffic gets heavy. I don’t think this is very effective.
        I realize that it takes only one idiotic act to end your life. Honestly, there are more out-of-town people that risk life and limb in the Westlake area to jaywalk with Christmas shopping bags then those that stupidly cross the train tracks. But then again, those same people from out-of-town are going to the games. I am not implying that people that live outside of Seattle are less intelligent. But walking safely in a city is different then walking safely in a suburb.
        Something both Metro and ST need to jump on, educating their passengers. I am not simply talking about having your fare ready, and be in the bus zone on times. Big things hurt you. Buses nor trains stop on dimes, they stop on football fields. It will always be a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
        As for the suicide, this is a high meth-amphetamine addict area. There is a methadone clinic only a two blocks away, on Airport Way. Many people subject to this addiction are already seriously depressed. (Also with all due respect, many of the patients there are working hard to build their lives back to normal.) What if there were train tracks this close to Sound Health? This is the major non-emergency mental facility for the Seattle area. Not wise.
        Perhaps Sound Transit, Metro, and the health department can work together to move this location to a more accessible and safer location for the clinic?

  4. I want to know WHY the medical examiner ruled this death a suicide. There are people out there with hoodies on, blocking their side vision, and listening to their IPods — mostly oblivious to their surroundings. There’s a chance this victim burdened himself with too many distractions.

    1. If you wish to question the examiner’s conclusions, feel free to ask for the report and post it. For my part, I believe him.

  5. I saw a close call at SODO Station last fall. A woman got off the SB train in front of me. We waited for our SB train to pass the ped crossing at the south end of the platforms. When the train passed, she started walking across the tracks, even though the bell was still sounding and the red lights were still flashing — and a NB train was bearing down on her, at most 100 feet away. I yelled “Look Out!” and she looked up and hurriedly stepped back.

    Based on that experience, and my general awareness, I’m convinced the most dangerous crossings for peds are where NB and SB trains pass like that. The fix of course is to always look both ways, every time; “all ways always”.

    1. Which shows the stupidity of fencing Aurora Bridge. Keep the jumpers off the Aldus/Adobe buildings, fine, but letting the bodies fall into the Ship Canal doesn’t delay anyone, save for the the harbor patrol who have to go out for the pick-up.

      1. I really hope you’re joking, because if not, this is pretty darn insensitive.

        Andreas’s comment above is right on target. Bridge suicides are highly impulsive acts, and often, all it takes is a 30-second delay (e.g. having to walk to another bridge) to get someone to rethink their decision. Studies have shown that suicide-prevention measures on bridges do not simply relocate suicides, but actually deter them. (1)

        Please understand that this measure will save dozens, if not hundreds, of lives. Compared to that, any talk about “delay” is beyond insignificant.

        (1) http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR99/AuroraBridgeFence/FAQ.htm — search for “How can you ensure that the fence will effectively deter suicides?”

      2. Sorry Aleks,

        I am not joking.

        People want out, give them methods and places that don’t involve delaying vital transportation links and don’t traumatize innocent persons including train operators.

        It’s called freewill.

        Let’s fund mental-illness outreach, not fences that can be easily climbed over.

        But of course, the 18th Amendment strikes again:

        Why not spend project funds on suicide prevention measures instead, such as mental health counseling and education campaigns?
        This project is funded through the gas tax. The 18th amendment to the Washington State Constitution dedicates gas taxes to highway purposes.

    2. I support the right to commit suicide but I think legalising physical assistance in the USA would allow for a lot of abuses. Think of hospitals forced to care for someone terminally ill and bedridden with no insurance and families that really don’t want to have to visit Grandma in the nursing home anymore but are too ashamed to admit it… too much incentive to forge names on “suicide papers”.

      Make potassium cyanide or some other fast-acting, low-pain poison easily available over the counter in every drugstore. I believe that having the means to go “quickly and quietly” at will is enough to slow a person’s thinking on the subject down enough that they won’t do it impulsively. And they won’t be %&$((&^ up public services for everyone else if they do decide to go meet the UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet….

  6. i still think these trains can and should be made suicide-proof. it’s possible — just requires a bit of effort.

    1. The Japanese have obviously tried and have lots of engineering talent that can figure this stuff out. Yet, they continue to have a significant number of suicides by train. I doubt we can make them “suicide-proof” if the Japanese can’t.

      Even if we could, I’d prefer the money be spent making a larger system resistant to accidental deaths rather than a far smaller “suicide-proof” system.

  7. Here in Portland, I suspect that we don’t hear about every MAX train suicide anymore, though I don’t have actual figures. After while, it just becomes another way to do it.

    Besides, we had one last Summer where someone committed suicide by jumping off the bridge onto the MAX tracks…..

  8. Isn’t it easy to say that, a man who is no longer alive, and who may have been trying to beat the train, or didn’t see the train when crossing, was “committing suicide? How can they definitively know the difference? They must have some pretty strong evidence to say that. What’s the evidence?

  9. Oran, do we know how many total accidents there has been with Link since operations began in July 2009? I believe they predicted there would be an accident every 9 days. However if I remember correctly, there has only been maybe a dozen accidents in 18 months which is a rate of less than one accident a month instead of the predicted three.

    1. I’m curious why you think Sound Transit, the Times and/or the coroner would outright lie to the public about the cause of death.

Comments are closed.