Van Stadens Bridge
Van Stadens Bridge
|Crosses||Van Stadens River|
|Height||140 metres (460 ft)|
|Longest span||198.10 metres (649.9 ft)|
Suicides at Van Stadens Bridge
A R1-million video-camera surveillance system, paid for by private donors, was installed in August 2005. Gauteng journalist, Franz Kemp, raised the funds after his daughter Inge had jumped off the bridge in 2003. The local police and pedestrians have rescued some twenty people from jumping off since that time.
One such dramatic rescue took place when a man from Humansdorp wanted to commit suicide from the bridge but was stopped just in time by Freddie van Niekerk, who had just walked past him and said he "felt a sudden chill, as if God was speaking to me" and grabbed the man. Van Niekerk endangered his own life and battled for 45 minutes to stop the man from jumping. Van Niekerk remained with the desperate man, even after the suicidal man had grabbed his benefactor's arms and threatened to pull him off the bridge, too. Van Niekerk had to save that same man a second time that day when he escaped from the Thornhill police station and started jogging back towards the bridge again.
The Thornhill police department, which has a specialist-counselling team on hand for the bereaved relatives of these suicides, retrieved the crushed bodies of an unnamed little girl, an older boy, and a man on whom they found a suicide note. They believe, based on the suicide note, that the three people died shortly after October 31, 2008. Piecing together the events leading to the tragedy, police came to the conclusion that the man must have thrown the two children over the side, sending them plummeting to the rocky floor of the gorge, before jumping himself. The bodies were not found in one place, suggesting that one of the children might have panicked and tried to flee after the first victim went over the side.
Captain Anton Smit said the traumatic discovery was made by two Port Elizabeth teenagers who had gone for a walk during a picnic near the Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve. Bryan van Vuuren, 17, and his friend Andre Trauernicht, 18, first discovered the body of the boy. The teens alerted Thornhill police station and showed them where they discovered the body. Soon afterwards, the body of the man was found a few metres away. There was also a note indicating that there was another body somewhere among the bushes. The note also mentioned three women who should be notified of the deaths.
A police sniffer dog was called in and the body of the girl was discovered several metres further from where the other two bodies were found. The bodies were not severely decomposed and were identifiable. There was no sign of a vehicle parked near the bridge.
- Basson, Monique (11 October 2012). "DA calling for safety measures". Kouga Express. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- Timse, Tabelo. "'Spy eyes' for bridge of death". Eastern Cape Herald. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
- Adriana Stuijt (November 24, 2008). "Bridge of Death in S.A. claims 71st victim". Digital Journal. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012.
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