Delta police explain Alex Fraser closure

Editor’s note: This story contains details that may be distressing to some readers. If you or a loved one is at risk of self-harm, the BC Crisis Centre can be reached at 1-800-784-2433. Translation services are available.

Delta police are providing more information about an hours-long closure of the Alex Fraser Bridge on Monday, saying they hope sharing the details of what happened will shed more light on mental health challenges and address stigma.

According to the Delta Police Department (DPD), officers received word just after noon that a man was experiencing a mental health crisis and was “outside the safety rail” of the bridge near the southbound lanes.

When they arrived, police officers began negotiating with the man, to try to help him to safety.

The southbound lanes of the crossing were shut down to give first responders and the man space, police explain. They note any decision to close the bridge is made based on “a variety of reasons.”

“While the overall decision to close the bridge is complex, it is guided by the DPD’s priority to preserve life,” police write.

Police say ‘various distractions’ ‘interfered with negotiations’

But the DPD says first responders’ efforts were complicated by ‘various distractions,’ including a few impatient drivers. In addition to “honking horns, yelling at the individual in crisis, and even encouraging them to take action,” police say some people walked up the bridge and “interfered with the negotiations,” snapping photos and video in some cases.

Some people are also said to have driven “aggressively,” with police adding these actions led to several crashes, all while officers continued negotiating with the man in crisis.

In one instance, police say a driver “went around several highway vehicles managing the road closure,” eventually hitting another car and a concrete barrier.

“Some DPD officers were forced to disengage from the crisis to deal with this incident,” police say.

In another case, investigators claim a driver “ignored a flagger’s direction” and drove around barricades. Police say the driver was found to be impaired and was handed a driving suspension.

The person experiencing the mental health crisis eventually agreed to climb back over the railing to safety after nearly eight hours. Police say he was “provided with the medical attention he needed.”

“We also recognize that the bridge closure caused frustrations, and our team will review this incident with our partners to determine how we can lessen the future impact on the public,” Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord said.

“As first responders, the DPD sees the impacts of mental health daily. It can grind lives to a halt, as we saw yesterday, but to stop the stigma surrounding mental health, everyone must do their part,” the department added in a statement.

Resources are available to anyone in need or who knows someone in need of support who may be experiencing a crisis.

You can find more information here.

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