Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Teen suicides bewilder city

Flagstaff, Ariz., worries about copycats

October 31, 2000


— A 14-year-old girl stood in the path of a train and was killed in what may have been Flagstaff's third teen suicide in two weeks. She was the second teen-ager killed on the railroad tracks.

Some parents and officials worry that the deaths could prompt others to take their lives in this city of 60,000.

"We are kind of walking on eggshells in not knowing what to say and how to say it," said Mayor Joe Donaldson.

Investigators haven't confirmed that the girl's death last Thursday was a suicide. Both previous deaths were ruled suicides.

Even though the three deaths occurred close together and two involved trains, investigators do not suspect a link. Police are not sure whether the teen-agers knew one another.

At the schools the dead teen-agers attended, Sinagua and Flagstaff, students have seen classmates crying in the hallways.

"You have time to prepare for it when they are sick," said Tiffany Dausend, 15, who knew two of the teens. "But when they kill themselves, you can't prepare."

On Oct. 15, a man found his 17-year-old son dead in his bedroom of a self-inflicted rifle wound. Authorities have not released the contents of a suicide note found in his room.

Later that day, another boy lay down on a railroad tracks, put his hands in his pockets and waited for one of the more than 80 trains that run through the city daily. It was his 17th birthday.

The boy also had briefly lain on the tracks two weeks earlier, and had talked to a friend about suicide, police said.

Eleven days later, a few miles away, the 14-year-old girl stepped from behind a parked boxcar and stood facing a train approaching at about 55 mph.

According to police reports, she had told a school counselor that she had tried to kill herself the night before with an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant.

She was not treated for the overdose.

The counselor called the girl's mother, who took her daughter home and called the girl's psychologist. But the girl ran away, and her body was later found on the tracks.

Deborah Gagna, the mother of an 18-year-old girl who knew all three teens, said her family participated in one of the counseling sessions conducted at high schools last week.

"I sat down with all three of my kids and tried to explain to them that things aren't ever that bleak," Deborah Gagna said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.