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Man Dies After Second Jump Off Bridge

Stephen Beckman of Rancho Santa Margarita survived one suicide attempt. His plunge last weekend in front of his mother was fatal, but his legacy survives.

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif.—Stephen Beckman tried to kill himself a year ago, but defied the odds and survived his plunge off the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge.

On Saturday, the odds gave in.

He lifted himself onto the railing of the Oso Parkway Bridge and dropped over the side.

In front of his mother.

She was trying to coax him into her car. There was no fighting, nothing physical. There wasn't even an argument. Please, just get in the car.

And then her 22-year-old son disappeared, landing in the bushes of Trabuco Creek.

It was that landing in the wash between Mission Viejo and Las Flores that authorities said prevented him from dying instantly. Remarkably, he still had a pulse and was still breathing after the 96-foot fall. Orange County Fire Authority personnel airlifted him to Mission Hospital.

Beckman suffered from mental illness, but his heart must have been made of iron to survive two such attempts. He remained alive but in critical condition until Wednesday evening, when his organs were harvested so he could save others.

His heart went to a local resident.

His pancreas and one kidney to another person.

The other kidney and liver to other recipients.

It was a final act of kindness by the Rancho Santa Margarita man, a silver lining in an event filled with dark clouds.

It wasn't until Sunday night that learned her son had registered to be an organ donor.

"I don't know in this situation of losing a child that I'm ever going to feel closure," Kelly said, "but I'm extremely proud of my son for the decision he's made and the giving person that he's always been."

Beckman's older brother by two years, Ryan, called him "the definition of compassion."

As Stephen lay in the hospital, Ryan reflected on their personalities. "I didn't become popular in school," he said, "until Stephen started going there."

He graduated from Tesoro High in 2008, one of those kids who could reel off the names of 20 best friends.

He suffered from mental illness, though it was recognized only in hindsight after his first suicide attempt.

His heart yearned to help the less fortunate. He embraced the homeless. He applied for jobs in nursing homes. He worked at the as a pet care assistant.

He also cared for his grandmother as she was dying.

Yet he cut short his life and leaves behind a father and stepmother. A grandmother and two grandfathers. A great-grandfather.

A daughter.

Little Aurora turned 1 year old on Friday. Beckman had wanted to be a part of her life, and had sought the court's help to make it so. Still, he had gone six months without seeing her.

The day after her birthday is when her father chose to say goodbye without so much as a warning.

Beckman and his mother had seemingly enjoyed "a good day together." They ate breakfast at Starbucks and laughed uproariously at the movie Ted. They stopped at In-N-Out—his favorite—for lunch. For the last two months, they had lived near the beach in Dana Point "to get a fresh perspective," Kelly said, but they were visiting their townhome in Las Flores which still housed many of their things.

Beckman poked his head in the door and told his mom he'd be right back. Maybe he wanted to see a friend before they headed back to the beach, she figured.

"I'm getting ready to go," she said. "I'll take you."

With some force, and a streak of independence, he made clear: "Mom, I'll be right back!"

Going for a walk by himself was not unusual. Beckman would often walk to the corner gas station for a snack, but he didn't come right back. Kelly grew anxious. She didn't see him on Antonio Parkway. She turned onto Oso to enter the shopping center.

She saw his bright blue shirt on the bridge.

"Clearly," she said earlier this week, "we're a little uncomfortable with Stephen being on a bridge."

She pulled alongside him and rolled down the passenger window.

"I was very uncomfortable with the way he was looking at me," she explained. "He did not seem happy to see me."

With a mother's intuition Kelly did not wait. She began dialing on her phone.

"Stephen," she said, "you need to come with me or I'm going to call 911."

He put the sole of his foot on the wall for leverage and lifted his butt onto the rail.

"How about neither," he answered.

Then he disappeared over the side.

Kelly screamed as she ran to the railing, hoping there would be a platform that caught him. Instead, she had an unobstructed view of her son in the creekbed below.

Five feet to either side, he would have hit solid ground. The large bush cushioned him enough to save his organs.

It was the second time in 13 months that Beckman jumped off a bridge. He survived a leap from the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge on June 12, 2011, during a Sunday morning walk. According to a witness, Beckman was minding his own business and suddenly like a high jumper. He landed on his back and survived the 63-foot drop.

He suffered a brain injury and doctors told Kelly then that her son would die, then called his recovery miraculous. At least six people have gone over the side of that bridge by choice or accident; Beckman was the only one who lived.

The second jump was too much.

"I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do here," a surgeon told Kelly. "It's a brain injury on top of a brain injury."

His body hung on by a thread, just long enough for his family to learn that he was an organ donor and that his body could be harvested in a final act of generosity.

"There's a very positive aspect to the gift of life that he's giving," Kelly said. "With his incredibly giving spirit, it's no surprise. This is such a poetic ending, if you will. Though it's hard on us, this is obviously what he wanted.

"If it inspires others to donate, then the giving continues."

Beckman's family gathered at Mission Hospital on Wednesday evening, about 27 hours after a second doctor confirmed that he was brain dead. Kelly had not had a chance to say goodbye four days earlier on Oso Parkway, but now there would be a proper moment to say farewell before her son was taken into surgery for the last time.

His mother described him as kind and generous, empathetic and sympathetic, a soul who wondered why love and kindness weren't an offered course in school. He loved only one way, she said: "Unconditionally."

She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him on the cheek. Goodbye.

Though she is left with the memory of the bridge, she is comforted by those other memories, too. Of caring for his grandmother. Of choosing a mission trip to Mexico to build a school library instead of a school trip to Washington D.C. Of time spent playing with local children, which he enjoyed most of all.

No matter what happened inside Stephen Beckman's brain, he had such a good heart at his core.

A heart that continues to beat today.

Editor's Note: To learn more about these subjects, consider:

JB July 17, 2012 at 07:10 AM
Jack, I couldn't agree more. No matter how 'acceptable' divorce has become, there remains a broken spirit in the heart and soul of the children of divorce. Whenever I see that kids have a different name than their Mom's or Dad's, my heart goes out to them immediately. I have been suicidal since my parent's divorce was finalized in 1969, and work very hard to maintain my mental health and my life. You're right: My siblings and I were abused, humiliated and spiritually murdered by the court system. None of us have recovered, and it's been over 40 years.
JB July 17, 2012 at 07:36 AM
Jamie ~ You are not alone. I'm right along side of you. I've suffered from depression for over 4 decades. It is quite the battle to "enjoy life". I'm getting 'Help", but agree that it's true friendship that really makes a difference, makes me feel worthwhile. When my therapist/counselor responds to my comments with "That's interesting" it seems so rote and impersonal; uncaring. Hospitalization sucks. Just a bunch of professionals trying to kick "sense" into those of us who suffer emotionally for a multitude of reasons. The Staff check in on the suicidal patients every 15 minutes, making it IMPOSSIBLE TO SLEEP. YOU MIGHT get satisfaction from volunteering, but I doubt it. I'm with 'lil sal'...MEDICATION, MEDICATION, MEDICATION. BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY!!!!!!!
JB July 17, 2012 at 07:48 AM
Only those among us who've been or are suicidal truly comprehend his mindset. I can tell you that he LOVED HIS MOM & FAMILY, but felt there was no other way out of the pain about to be inflicted upon him by NOT EVER being permitted to see his little girl again. The LAW sides heavily AGAINST persons who are deemed "mentally ill".
J Supports July 17, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Wow, Charles. Since it appears your mommy never told you: "If you don't have anything nice to say, keep your comments to yourself,"
J Supports July 17, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Public Knowledge: occourts.org Can't fake court docs, LH.
J Supports July 17, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Colleen- Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that you and Aurora's mother can come to a visitation agreement. I know you will forever see Stephen in her, and I hope you are given the opportunity to be a part of her life. Hopefully, her mother will see how important you are to her. I commend your strength. I have a child, and I do not know how I would cope with something of this magnitude. Bless you and yours.
JB July 17, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Colleen; You are a brave and wonderful Mother to be so open and honest in sharing the story of your son's battle with mental illness and the tragic way he ended his life. You do not deserve the judgmental comments posted here. You are suffering and grieving and nobody is in a position to criticize you, Stephen or your family. I have wondered over the past year whatever happened to the man who survived the jump off the Santa Margarita bridge last summer; when I learned it was the same man who died after jumping off the Oso Parkway bridge my heart broke; especially for you, because you tried to intervene and wound up witnessing his final act. You have been on my heart and in my prayers. I wish I could meet with you personally, because I have battled suicidal tendencies for decades and know in my heart how desperate Stephen must have felt to carry out his feelings the way he did. He wanted the pain to stop; he didn't want to hurt you, but couldn't think of any other way to stop the pain. I am so very sorry for all of you. May God hold you in His Loving Arms and bring you comfort in this sad and difficult time.
lil sal July 19, 2012 at 01:56 AM
@JPT... the brain is an organ!!!! just as the kidney, lung, pancreas, etc... if any of these organs were "diseased", we would take medication for it, just as those w/mental illness and a "diseased" brain (organ) should also. i know exactly what i meant to say.... the organ is diseased, therefore, i was correct in using the term organ.
Anthony Adams July 20, 2012 at 07:34 AM
Actually ,Amber,you are very wrong...The article is very well written and informative and nearly everyone here on this forum thinks so (you are the only one with any negative comments in this regard). Also,your comment that "Until mental illness is no longer ignored by religious people as a God issue,we will continue to lose young people to this horrific beast" is completely lacking regarding any facts and is totally off base...it's simply a blind attack, by you, on people who have Faith that you don't have...You went out of your way to make a totally unsubstantiated attack on people who have a right to their Faith and their beliefs about mental illness, and you,once again,are egregiously in error.
Shane January 04, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I knew Beckman; and My prayers are with the family. It is sad to think he sentenced himself to hell, and his family to a tormented life. Jesus gave Beckman a second chance, and he spit in the Lord's face. Mentally ill is a cop out; trying to justify their situation. ANYONE who is sad, mad or kills themselves is "mentally ill" these days. As far as I am concerned he was a weak boy. We all go threw our issues, overcome and get passed it; death, divorce, heart ache, and pain is a part of life. To those who think life is not worth living; grab your balls and take it day by day. The Lord blesses, and takes away. Community pity parties for attention needy (needed) people encourages suicide. I pray for the family and the people the Lord touched through Beckman.
Maureen Fitzgerald January 04, 2013 at 05:15 PM
perhaps it's time to pull this story from the Internet, since the comments are causing a lot more pain than help.
Shane January 04, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Yea, in hell. Everything he left on earth is the will of God touching us. Jesus is using Beckman's story to teach us. If the Lord gives you a second chance, take it; not literally take it over the other bridge. And btw, this story was sad the first time. The second was kind of funny. I know you are all thinking that is insensitive; but I knew Stephen. Maybe I am insensitive to life because of all the abortions taking place in our planet. I don't get bent out of shape over one death, when 10,000 babies will be killed this hour.
Shane January 04, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Learn from your mistakes. Try the other bridge!
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:11 AM
Jamie, As others have said, volunteer. Just start with one hour- One hour you can do. Go from there. Everyone matters, be gentle with yourself.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:14 AM
TB Player, You are so correct. Physchiatrists have a high rate of suicide as well. Medications can help, but you need caring people around you to let you know if something is making you worse not better. I'm sorry for your loss.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:16 AM
Charles, You have too much confidence in the medical system. I do research in brain disease and TB Player is right on target.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:20 AM
Charles, You appear to have your panties in a bunch. You have no idea what you are talking about, but I guess you get your jollies trying to hurt people who are already hurting? You aren't effective.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:25 AM
Amber, I am sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, psychiatrists have only 4 drug classes to choose from, and it is a guessing game. This is not science like diabetes treatment. Psychiatrists also have the highest rate of suicide. Think twice before putting all your eggs in the "doctor knows what they are talking about" basket. People need treatment, agreed. Research needs to be funded to understand the molecular basis of the disease. Lobby for fundamental research.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:34 AM
Lil sal is the problem with our mental heath system, if we can believe she works in the system. She has no compassion, no understanding. These 72 hour holds are ineffective for most. However, they keep people like lil sal employed. Tell me, if your loved one is suffering, do you want little sal there in their treatment team?
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:37 AM
Reading through this thread I am confident lil sal should not work with mentally ill people. Perhaps, lil sal, you need treatment yourself? You appear to have no compassion whatsoever and to enjoy inflicting pain. of course you will not agree, no sociopaths do.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:39 AM
Lil sal wants to keep her job.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:41 AM
Unfortunately your son may not be able to keep that promise.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:45 AM
Shane and wlharrington please go get sports cars, your insecurities are showing and in unattractive ways.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:46 AM
Lawrene, Charles needs a sports car, he is overcompensating for something in a very unattractive way.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:49 AM
lil sal is not fit to work in a mental institution as evidenced by the unkind comments to hurting people here. She works for the state, need we know more?
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:54 AM
JB, Unfortunately you are wrong. Some people posting here intend to be hurtful to the family, Charles and lil sal are standouts. Lil sal is a "state employee in a psychiatric facility". God help the patients that come into contact with her. The medications are not understood at this time. Basic, fundamental research is needed.
PJ April 29, 2013 at 09:58 AM
Shane, Jesus did not like those who judged, that is for God alone. Please read the New Testament.
Tara Kellick June 29, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Life is very hard for the tender at heart. My heart goes out to his Mother and Daughter and Family.
Tracie Ann July 24, 2013 at 03:35 AM
I really think that something needs to be done with the local bridges to protect the mentally ill from temptation. This is sounding way too easy.....
Jamie September 01, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Remind me never to go and talk things out with Shane should I ever feel the pangs of distress. How harsh and insensitive he is. That's why people that resort to such measures never trouble themselves to involve anyone in their issues because of very attitudes such as this. Horrible!

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