Police in Delta are criticizing drivers who impeded their negotiations with a man experiencing a mental health crisis on the Alex Fraser Bridge Monday.
A statement from the department says the decision to close lanes on the bridge and keep them closed was made due to a “priority to preserve life.”
The closure lasted upwards of eight hours, stretching into the busiest part of the day for commuters. The length and timing of the closure, a spokesperson for the Delta Police Department says, caused frustration that exacerbated an already volatile situation.
“Various distractions impacted the DPD’s priority to preserve life, including drivers ‘rubber-necking’ to get a view, honking horns, yelling at the individual in crisis, and even encouraging them to take action,” the media release issued Tuesday said.
“Some impacted drivers walked up the bridge deck, made contact with officers, interfered with the negotiations, and even videoed or photographed the individual in crisis.”
In addition, people driving aggressively caused at least two crashes. In one instance, a driver crashed into a highway patrol vehicle and a concrete barrier. In another, a motorist who was impaired ignored the direction of flaggers and drove around the barricades that first responders had set up.
These “secondary collisions,” authorities said, put people working in danger and diverted police resources from the emergency they had been called in to respond to.
Ultimately, the man who had climbed over the safety railing where he had been “hanging” for hours cooperated with negotiators and received medical attention, police say.
Chief Neil Dubord said he was proud of the efforts of everyone involved in “saving the distressed individual’s life,” but that he also recognizes the closure was frustrating. A review, he added, will look at whether anything should have been done differently.
The following list of 24/7 crisis resources was also provided.
Fraser Health Crisis Line 604-951-8855 or 1-877-820-7444
Crisis Services Canada (www.talksuicide.ca) 1-833-456-4566
Crisis Centre BC (www.crisiscentre.bc.ca) 1-800-784-2433
Kids Help Phone (www.kidshelpphone.ca) 1-800-668-6868
310Mental Health Support (no area code required) 310-6789