The Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the Goldstream Trestle, is in talks with Langford Fire Rescue and West Shore RCMP on how to address safety issues at the trestle following the suicide of a Langford teen.
The family of Andre Courtemanche is raising money to help fund barriers on the trestle and support better mental-health treatment after the 16-year-old took his life after a long struggle with depression. Andre’s body was found in Goldstream Provincial Park on Jan. 9.
There have been five deaths at the Goldstream Trestle between 2016 and 2020, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.
“We’re as broken-hearted about this as anyone else,” said Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation. “It’s so bloody tragic.”
Stevenson said he has reached out to the RCMP, the Langford fire department, the Ministry of Health and B.C. Parks to form a working group to come up with safety measures for the trestle.
“I’m trying to put a group together to come up with solutions to mitigate this risk,” he said, adding that he hopes the discussion can take place as soon as possible.
Stevenson said mental health experts must also be part of the conversation, as an important issue is helping people in distress before they walk up to the trestle.
“We’ve turned this discussion into one about a trestle, [but] this is more a discussion about mental health,” he said.
Stevenson said there’s no easy fix for because the bridge was designed for train transport, not pedestrians.
Stevenson said “no tresspassing” signs have been placed on the bridge before but it’s not long before they’re ripped down.
A woman who witnessed someone die by suicide at the Goldstream Trestle in July 2018 is adding her voice to the chorus of people calling for barriers or a fence to prevent further deaths.
Alysha Yakimovich said she was 17 when she and other bystanders tried to persuade a woman not to take her life.
“By simply putting up some type of barrier, you could be saving a life of someone who wants to take their own, saving the life of the loved ones who have to be informed of the horrific news, and saving the life of those, like myself and others, who may have to witness something so traumatizing,” she said.
Andre’s parents, Denise and Glenn Courtemanche, previously told the Times Colonist that the pandemic had taken a toll on their son’s mental health, who felt isolated from his friends at the West Shore Centre for Learning.
The B.C. Coroners Service also noted in a 2020 knowledge update that while the number of suicide deaths in B.C. between January and August 2020 declined by seven per cent compared to the same period the previous year, suicide deaths in the Island Health region saw a three per cent increase. It did not say why that might be.
There were 90 suicide deaths in the Island Health region between January and August 2020, compared to 87 suicide deaths in the same period in 2019 and 82 in the same period in 2018.
Anyone in need of mental health support can call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1‑888‑494‑3888 or visit vicrisis.ca.