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Apparent suicidal jump sends man to ICU.

Byline: Rebecca Taylor The Register-Guard

A Cottage Grove man survived an 85-foot fall from a construction crane in downtown Eugene during an apparent suicide attempt Thursday morning.

The man had tied a rope around his neck and wrapped a U.S. flag around his shoulders like a cape, Eugene police said. As people below watched, he climbed through the bars of the crane arm and hung by his hands for about a minute before letting go, police said.

The rope snapped and he plunged toward the ground. He crashed through plywood supported about 12 feet above the ground, then fell onto gravel, police said. He somehow avoided hitting the metal rebar and concrete posts that spike the site.

Seth Austin Casson, 33, was conscious when emergency workers reached him. He underwent surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center and was in serious condition in the intensive care unit Thursday afternoon.

"The plywood must have absorbed some of the impact," Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda Kletzok said. "It's amazing, because just the hanging is usually fatal, and then the fall - he was very, very fortunate."

At the site, police found notes in which Casson had written of his intention to take his own life, Kletzok said.

Police said he broke into the work site on West Eighth Avenue between Charnelton and Lincoln streets early Thursday morning, where crews from Gale Roberts Construction are building a 102-unit affordable housing complex called WestTown on 8th. Casson is not an employee of the company.

The project foreman arrived at the site about 6:30 a.m. and saw the man wrapped in the flag atop the crane. The foreman called 911.

The police crisis negotiation team was preparing to go up on a fire department ladder truck to speak with Casson when he put the noose around his neck, maneuvered through the bars, hung from his hands and fell.

Mark Roberts, part-owner of the construction company, said burglars had cut through a 6-foot chain-link fence and broke down plywood entry doors overnight to steal copper wire from the site.

He said Casson must have entered the same way after the thieves left. The man then scaled a 6-foot fence around the base of the crane, Roberts said.

The plywood deck he fell through was supported by metal bracing, which bent from the impact, Roberts said.

Crews were planning to pour a concrete slab there in coming days.

"Somebody was definitely looking out for him," said Roberts, who witnessed the man's fall.

Crews were sent home Thursday and the work site was closed down for the day to allow workers a chance to regroup, he said.

The company will hold a meeting this morning to see if any workers need professional support.
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Title Annotation:Crime; The 33-year-old Cottage Grove resident falls 85 feet from a construction crane
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 17, 2007
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