10 Comments

  1. It looks like an inspirational story about a man with great goals. But it’s not possible to fly, so he just falls to his death, and it looks like a suicide.

    The baboon attack is unrelated, except that it (sort of) drives home how trivial his death is, that it gets ranked below a story about a baboon. (Which doesn’t quite work if you think about it, since you wouldn’t normally expect an ordinary person’s death to make the front page at all. And a baboon attacking a prime minister would be a pretty big story.)

  2. Whatever happened to that old rule of thumb — “If a baboon attacks Prime Minister; that’s not news; if the Prime Minister attacks baboons, that’s news”? (Of course the usual anti-baboon pressure groups got it changed to something more boring about “Dog bites man yadda yadda,” but WE know the real story.)

  3. I saw the baboon article differently. It’s a very low probability event, which led me to believe that the other low-probability event (flying) was less low. The twist was then a greater joke than otherwise.

  4. @ Christine – One might be tempted to say that this was not a “public” crisis, but it certainly was a personal crisis for the individual involved. Climbing the fence at Niagara is effectively the same as going over the railing of the Golden Gate bridge. The Bridge authorities have recently decided to install nets to prevent (or at least reduce) the number of fatalities there, and I know that there is (or at least used to be) a cable across the Niagara river(*), to prevent accidental (and intentional) incidents of “fall riding”. Technically there is a law (or regulation) that makes this “illegal”, but in every case, the focus isn’t on “enforcing the law”, it’s simply a matter of saving lives (and protecting the public from having to witness gory incidents).
    P.S. On my first trip to Niagara, I remember noticing that there was a fairly simple path to defeat the “fence+cable” combination, although it would require purposeful action to do it (it wasn’t just a matter of falling over the rail, there was short a distance that had to be walked). I wonder whether the park will install an additional fence.

  5. @Kilby – A key difference from the Golden Gate bridge is that there isn’t a tradition of people intentionally jumping off the bridge for the fame (as far as I know). I doubt that they’re going to install fencing, because this is the first case like this I’ve heard of. Everywhere I know that’s had a suicide barrier put up has multiple deaths (or attempts) per year.

    A few years back someone fell over the wall because they’d climbed up on it to get a picture, and there was some debate over installing more secure fencing. Mostly along the lines of the media asking “maybe it’s time” and then reporting that everyone in the region said “uh, no.

  6. @ Christine – The only reason that the Niagara tradition is no longer that well known is that the park has been working assiduously to prevent it: that’s why the installed the cable. In past decades (or centuries), there was a fair amount of active one-upsmanship in attempts to “go over the falls in a barrel”; the museum at Niagara documents a number of the attempts, and there is also a lengthy list at Wikipedia. That article cites estimates of the number of deaths at the Falls as being between 20 to 40 per year, which is as high (or even higher) than the number of suicides at the Golden_Gate_Bridge (1600 over 75 years = approx 21/year).

  7. That is a very relevant statistic. I hadn’t known it was a suicide target. It makes sense though.

    My parents recently moved to the Niagara region – I had always been under the impression that the cable was for boating accidents and the like. You don’t hear about suicides there, not the way you do about at bridges. (I wonder if it’s because a suicide barrier would definitely be more difficult, and therefore there’s less in the way of a campaign to publicise them to get the barrier built.)

  8. @ Christine – A closer reading of the “Golden Gate” article reveals that the long-term “body count” statistic is much lower than than current rates (by 50%), although the official “count” was discontinued to deter anyone from trying to become a “milestone” jumper. It also mentions that in 2013, 118 people were talked out of jumping. I think this shows that you were right: the bridge is a much bigger “magnet”.

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