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Bridge Closed For Two Hours Due to Afternoon Suicide Threat

Woman was successfully negotiated off bridge, but cars trying to escape via the Silver Strand found themselves trapped by a multi-car wreck and a disabled vehicle.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. with more information on the threat, descriptions of how people spent their time during the bridge closure and details on the Silver Strand incidents, and reference to August incident.

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Authorities talked a woman threatening suicide off the San Diego-Coronado Bridge Tuesday afternoon, in an incident that ended up snarling traffic throughout town.

The California Highway Patrol shut down both sides of the bridge after 12:30 p.m., while San Diego police negotiators worked with the woman to coax her out of the northbound traffic lanes.

San Diego Detective Gary Hassen said the call first came in about 15 minutes earlier, that a woman had been spotted on a bridge barrier with her feet dangling.

The woman, 31, was talked down at 2:10 p.m., Hassan said, then taken in for a mental health evaluation. Ten minutes later the bridge had reopened in both directions, and by 2;45 p.m. traffic was flowing at normal speeds.

All was not normal, however, on Silver Strand Boulevard, where a four-car accident and a disabled vehicle clogged the highway until later in the afternoon.

Motorists trying to escape the bridge closure slipped down Glorietta Boulevard or Orange Avenue to make it to the only other way out of town, only to quickly find it blocked as well. 

The call for the Strand wreck, in the southbound lanes near the radio tower, came in just after 1:30 p.m. said Lea Corbin, a police spokeswoman.

It wasn't cleared until shortly after 3 p.m., in part because a flatbed tow truck was needed for one of the vehicles. Tow trucks also had trouble penetrating the back-up to make it to the scene.

An ambulance responded to treat motorists for minor injuries, Corbin said.

Another car broke down on the northbound side shortly before 2 p.m., straining the Strand further, but was pushed from lanes relatively quickly, the spokeswoman added.

A reader posted at 3 p.m that Strand traffic was “bumper to bumper.”

Traffic could be spotted clogging lanes on the bridge, as the suicide threat wore on. A curious couple stopped in Tidelands Park to use binoculars and watch the situation unfold.

Another woman, who declined to give her name, said she had been on her way to do errands in San Diego when she realized what was happening and decided to wait in the park.

Two other women, tourists, opted not to deal with the traffic and checked out the ferry schedule to get into San Diego. Another man, who had a flight set for 5 p.m., decided to golf at the public course instead, figuring he could take a later plane. 

Two tourists, James and Sheri Theep, who had tried to take a bus to visit San Diego, were allowed to walk off the bridge with a small group. 

The Theeps, from Wisconsin and still in town after the Chargers-Packers game Sunday, said their driver learned of the possible jumper just after they boarded the bus on Orange; he warned passengers they might be in for a long ride. 

The tourists said they could see the woman who had been threatening suicide talking to authorities near the bridge's mid-point. The passengers also banded together; one of them called into work to say she was going to be late.

“We were all in the background saying, ‘She's telling the truth,’” Sheri Theep said. 

Along with the walkers, an occasional car was allowed to pass through the closure and escape the crunch on the bridge, an odd sight given the normally heavy traffic on the span.

Suicide threats are not uncommon on the bridge. In August, a man threatening to kill himself was shot and killed atop the span.

Kathy Williams Campbell November 08, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Traffic is not normal on the strand. I just attempted to leave the Cays to go to Chula Vista and bumper to bumper traffic is what I encountered. I came home...no way am I sitting in that mess!
Jennifer Vigil November 08, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Kathy, thanks for telling us. If you can make your way to the bridge it's moving faster, but I know that's a long way around for you.
Qui November 09, 2011 at 02:01 AM
What a mess, when will the tunnel arrive!!
KC November 09, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Like a tunnel would never be jammed?
coronado November 09, 2011 at 03:46 PM
You can't jumped "off" of a tunnel and try to get sympathy by threatening suicide in a public place. This was a selfish act.

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