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City officials consider demolishing bridge after deadly jump

Monday , July 16, 2018 - 11:02 AM


LEHI, Utah (AP) — Authorities in Utah are considering demolishing an old iron bridge popular for illicit dives after a teenage boy was killed when he jumped into the water.

Despite “no trespassing” signs posted on the bridge in Lehi, people have been visiting it for years to jump into the Jordan River below, officials said.

One of those trips took a deadly turn the night of July 8, when 16-year-old Cole Merrill of Alpine did a backflip off the bridge’s railing. Two other boys he was with surfaced, but Merrill disappeared. His body was found later that night.

The other boys told police one or both of them landed on Merrill when they all hit the water about 10 feet (3 meters) below, knocking the wind out of him, Lehi Police Lt. Jeff Swenson told the Deseret News for a story published Sunday. His exact cause of death is under investigation.

Mayor Mark Johnson asked city staff last week to look into taking down the unused bridge, but first they have to figure out whether it’s owned by the city or the county.

They believe the county deeded the structure to the city at some point, but they’re still looking for historical verification, said assistant Lehi City Administrator Cameron Boyle.

There’s been one other death in the last 15 years at the bridge in the area with dangerously varying water levels, Lehi fire battalion Chief Tim Robinson told the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo.

Police officers make the bridge part of their routine patrols and usually warn trespassers, sometimes citing repeat offenders, Swenson said. Finding people on the bridge is “a daily occurrence during the summer.”

It was built in 1914, and was a main thoroughfare until a new bridge went up in 1995, Boyle told the Deseret News.

The city is also considering installing more fencing. It already has barriers to keep cars off.

But officials are concerned that if they tear down the old bridge, they’re going to need new safety measures to keep people from jumping off the new bridge.

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