'Death bridge' to get cameras

2003-11-08 18:32

Porter Elizabeth - The "Bridge of Death" across the Van Stadens River near Port Elizabeth, where 57 people have committed suicide since it was opened 32 years ago, will be equipped with six surveillance cameras in time for Christmas, project organiser Frans Kemp said on Saturday.

The cameras - two at each end of the bridge and one each at both emergency phones - will enable the police to monitor every call from the bridge on closed circuit television .

Detective Inspector Francois Nell based at the Thornhill police station said: "There are false alarms all the time mostly caused by people who think it funny to remove the emergency phones from their cradles which automatically registers at our station. So we end up rushing six kilometres to the bridge for nothing but we cannot take a chance and have to treat every call as an emergency."

The bridge was opened on November 11, 1971, and became known as the "Bridge of Death" when, just 12 days later. a 50-year-old man from Uitenhage jumped to his death.

The surveillance project, which will cost some R250 000, was motivated by journalist Franz Kemp, whose daughter, Inge, took her own life at the bridge on May 18 this year.

Kemp said: "I want to give greater meaning to Inge's life so that she did not die in vain. If we can save one single life with the cameras, it might help to ease the sorrow and pain."

The go-ahead to install the cameras came from the SA National Road Safety Association, which owns the bridge.

The National Observation Equipment company in Bloemfontein donated and installed the closed circuit TV cameras and the control equipment and Santam will make no charge to insure all the equipment.

Fibre Management Systems in Johannesburg donated the optical fibre digital transmitters and receivers which will relay the video images from the bridge to the Thornhill police station.

Telkom assisted with advice and support and is also supplying the fibre optic relay cable for the cameras, while the Nelson Mandela Metro Municipality in Port Elizabeth has offered to supply electricity to the bridge.

Kemp said: "It took many meetings and many hours but I am still overwhelmed that we were able to put the whole project together within four months."

"I must add it would not have been possible without Inspector Francois Nell's organisation and support, as well as the co-operation of the Thornhill police station," Kemp said.

San Fransisco's Golden Gate Bridge holds the record for suicides. In the 142 years since it was built an estimated 1 015 people have jumped to their death from the bridge.