3 Cornell Students Commit Suicide Off Bridge

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PostTue Mar 16, 2010 4:17 pm » by Savwafair2012

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The view from Jennifer Brenner's dorm window is usually considered an enviable one, as it overlooks one of Ithaca's famed gorges.


But in the wake of two gorge falls in the last week, the Cornell University freshman said the sight of the Thurston Avenue bridge, where one of her fellow engineering students plunged to his death, has taken on a more somber and sinister tone.


Junior Matthew Zika, 21, of Lafayette, Ind., is believed to have fallen Friday from the suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge. Police, rescue and helicopter units continued their search along Fall Creek and the Cayuga Lake inlet into the weekend, but Zika's body had still not been recovered as of Sunday evening.

Zika's fall came just one day after the body of sophomore William Sinclair was recovered underneath the same bridge and less than a month after rescue workers recovered the body of freshman Bradley Ginsberg from the same area.

Cornell University administrators made several attempts to reach out to the campus community over the weekend, through a series of official messages, videos and visits to student dormitories.

"The cumulative effect of this loss of life is palpable in our community," Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy said in a video posted on the university's Web site.

Cornell University police, EMS workers and private security personnel have been posted on all bridges around campus since Friday afternoon.

Stands were also set up in libraries and other university buildings, and letters were sent out to faculty members, asking teachers to try to help students manage their stress as they head into a busy final week of classes before spring break.

Hoping to help shake off the negative feelings, Brenner and a few of her friends camped out at the bridge starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, distributing smiles and supportive messages to passersby, many of whom paused to peer over the side at the murky, fast-moving water below.

"We just want to spread cheer and love and show them that there are people who care," Brenner said.

Mental health pamphlets lined the sidewalk and 19-year-old Carolyn Miller bent down to write "Thurston Ave Love" in brightly colored chalk along both sides of the bridge.

"This shouldn't be happening, three deaths in less than 30 days," Miller said. "We just feel like we've been deeply affected by the deaths of our fellow students, even if we didn't know them."

Brenner said she has been impressed with the administration's efforts, but felt it was also up to the students to strengthen community among peers and ensure there is informal, pressure-free one-on-one support available.

Police are investigating the students' deaths, and have asked anyone with information about the incidents to contact investigators at 272-9973. Those affected by the deaths are encouraged to call 255-3277 for counseling services.
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