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Updated: Lake Forest Woman Jumps to Her Death Off RSM Bridge

Most recent suicide victim was in creek bed days before being discovered under the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge. The distraught woman disappeared Monday night.

Editor's Note: Updates story with identity of the victim and background information.

A Lake Forest woman who was last seen on Monday night has been identified as the victim of an apparent suicide jump off the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge.

The body of Michele Ann McKay was found below the bridge Saturday, a little after 10 a.m., 63 feet below the main artery that connects Rancho Santa Margarita to Mission Viejo.

The Orange County Coroner has pegged her fatal injuries as occurring Tuesday. She was discovered by passersby from the bridge, who contacted the Orange County Fire Authority.

The Orange County Sheriff assisted on the call and confirmed that the woman was deceased in the creekbed.

"To my knowledge, there were no witnesses to the event," said Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services in Rancho Santa Margarita. "It did not look like a recent jump."

McKay was 56. A 25-year resident of Lake Forest who had raised two children, she was identified through fingerprints.

Her family indicated that and requested help from Orange County residents earlier this week to keep an eye out for her. They believed she might have headed for the beach after leaving her home on Monday, about 10 p.m.

The Coroner's office indicated an autopsy next week will determine the cause of death.

Her family described the insurance claims adjuster as "distraught" and that recent financial and medical issues were the likely cause of her disappearance. Her sister, Mary Schaffer, said recent circumstances were "maxing out [McKay's] capacity to cope."

Her disappearance was out of character and shocked family members, Schaffer said.

Wearing workout attire and running shoes, McKay jumped mid-span from the inland side of the westbound lanes.

The initial call to the OCSD was 10:19 a.m.

The bridge, which rises about 63 feet over O'Neill Regional Park and spans Trabuco Creek, has been the site of six deaths in the past, two accidental and four suicides. The first occurred in November, 2005 when Jennifer Lee Hashimoto, 35, tried to retrieve an item that flew out of her car and hopped the interior railing thinking there was a median between the east and west spans; there is not.

The most recent successful suicide attempt was Aug. 4, 2010; Joseph Feeley, the second suicide in a four-month span, was not discovered until four days later.

On June 12, 2011, Stephen Beckman jumped off the bridge and survived with critical injuries, only to jump off the Oso Parkway bridge on July 7, 2012, while his mother looked on. Beckman was kept alive for several days so that organs from his body could be harvested. He is believed to be the only known survivor from the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge.

Rancho Santa Margarita deputies, and those in nearby Las Flores, have been busy over the last few months. , Deputy Tim Africano climbed a fence about eight feet above the Banderas Bridge and grabbed a teenager who was on the other side; the boy went limp in an effort to fall and Africano straddled the fence and held the boy with one arm until additional officers arrived to assist pulling him up and over the fence.

, Deputy Felipe Martinez tackled a despondent 20-year-old who was on the outside ledge of the Antonio Parkway Bridge at Cañada Vista Park; other officers had distracted the man allowing Martinez to make the grab.

On March 30, Deputies Maria Bowman and Richard Oates approached a man on the railing of the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge and talked him down. On April 28, 1011, Deputy Joses Walehwa engaged a 21-year-old Trabuco Hills man on the bridge long enough for a crisis team to arrive and coax him to safety.

Anyone contemplating suicide should immediately talk to a professional who is trained to guide individuals through pain and life crises. For more information about suicide or help, consider the following:


Crisis Prevention Phonelines

  • Local Toll free Number for Emergency Psychiatric Evaluation in Orange County - 24/7365: 866-830-6011 or 714-834-6900
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: at 1-800-273-TALK (8255),
  • Youth Crisis Hotline, 24 hours a day 1-800-HIT-HOME (448-4663)
Nicole September 10, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Charles, I don't know you. But this woman meant a lot to me. I'm sick of your 5 year old snotty attitude, preach it to someone who cares. You obviously didnt know her and have nothing respectful to say so get OFF this page. You wanna rant? Get a blog. You're immature, inappropriate, distasteful and quite frankly, unwelcome to continue commenting on this.
Christine September 10, 2012 at 04:24 PM
This might sound coldblooded but I believe that someone who really wants to commit suicide is going to succeed eventually. Wheather the bridge/s have a safety fence or not. I am very sorry that there was accidential deaths and I do feel for all the families. It is a tragedy and I can't imagine being left behind with so many open questions.
Liz tompkins September 10, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Lisa I was only stating that personal issues, and economic issues can have a very big part in your feelings of well being.maybe she was just overwhelmed and felt like there was no way out. you have to admit that our country is not in the best shape right now, and you know it has a big effect on thousands of families right now. maybe she didnt want to burden her family with it, but now it only makes it harder for the family because when this happens, it is the family left with all the questions and guilt. Dont pity me!! Im just stating facts that DO play a part in suicide. I worked with a man for years, and had no idea he was under so much pressure from the IRS. he commited suicide because it apparently was so overwhelming to him that his debt just kept climbing with all the interest etc. Family said he did try to work out pymts but back than in the 80"s the IRS was not so patient or willing to work with people. These days the IRS is more willing to compromise. I pity you for not being able to open your mind to the various reasons this could have happened. maybe janie and I could throw you a pity party........
Charlene Burdacharleneburda September 10, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Why dont the city of RSM ask Lowes to maybe help donate the material for the fencing for the bridge. They help the boy scouts with there eagle projects. So why cant Lowes and maybe Home Depot to step up to help with this project.
sharon girulat September 10, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Charlene, That is an excellent idea...or even area fencing company? .but first an architect has to design it to meet all needs in compliance with city regulations. And, as funding is being reduced for so many things, maybe you and/or some friends could approach Lowes and/or Home Depot, with a special 'project request'. And you might want to put feelers out for the special architect, and read up on the procedures required. Again, passing that buck is easy. But, especially these days, there are fewer 'receivers'....so finding ways to pitch in, ourselves, is a big plus.


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