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)
Liz tompkins September 09, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Hey M Friedrich, did you not read that she was financially and medically distraught?? janie brought up the political side because Im sure it had alot to do with it. Look at where we are right now and the others that posted how down and out they are. the situation she was in helped bring on her decision unfortunately.Have you ever heard of the word "reality"? maybe you should look it up because it sounds like your not dealing with reality if you cant recognize the problem. My sympathies to this womans family, and to you for being such an idiot
Charles September 09, 2012 at 06:59 PM
When I read "praying for you", I understand it to mean "I want to propagate my religiosity by publicly announcing that I am having delusions which prompt me to make a request on your behalf to an imaginary being" When I read "Things will get better", I understand that to mean "I have no idea things will get better because I, like everyone else, can't predict the future" (but it sounds good and it doesn't cost me anything so, like "Good Luck" or "Have a nice day", it is basically an empty, uncommitted, anchorless phrase)
ms.sc. September 09, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I agree Patricia Noble, there must be some way to keep these overpasses safe. We need to address the suicide thought first. What the suicidal person does not understand is their own self-worth. Not everyone receives a loving environment and it saddens me that some leave this world thinking that. Suicide is actually selfish. I feel for the family and friends.
Liz tompkins September 09, 2012 at 07:14 PM
when everything is going wrong and theres no way (it seems) to get out, Depression comes along. some people beat it with medication and working thru it and others just cant see it getting better. everyones going after Janie when in fact, it could possibly have had alot to do with it. This country is in bad shape and I'm sure there are many more people in the same desperate situation. keep an eye on the suicide rate, because if we get 4 more years,...that rates gonna go up
sharon girulat September 09, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thomas, 211 is the go-to number for all needs when you are down and out. They are there, 24/7, to help and guide you to those who might help. Everyone should keep this number top in their mind for ANYONE in need. My favorite, Saddleback is always there for you, to hear and guide you. And don't think of it as 'religious', think of it providing for your short-term needs and then helping you realize the importance of your life, and put it to good purpose. With purpose, we all have a better life, less depression.
sharon girulat September 09, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Charles, You must be very old and well-read and versed to espouse so much experience and knowledge. To address people with such emotional distress, you might want to redirect your learning to visiting some of the area shelters, food pantries, etc. Groups such as Families Forward, or Comfort, Hope and Promise (and many more) can use your volunteer efforts to see, observe, learn and help with what the real issues are and what types of solutions are needed. For lack of volunteers and funding and brilliant people, such as yourself, many of our at-risk neighbors are not getting the support they need to avoid suicide. ACTION speaks louder than words....
Karen Devine September 09, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Too much stress leads to depression. Untreated depression can lead to suicide. Without treatment and support some feel overwhelmed and believe suicide is their only option. I pray that more people will reach out for help before it's too late.
Lisa Sabat September 09, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Liz, you and Janie are cut from the same, sad cloth-I pity both of you.
Vince September 09, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Charles...."Forcing" one's religious belief(s) upon another can be rather irritating....but then again, forcing one's NON religious belief(s) upon another is just as bad, if not even worse, since most non believer's consider themselves better informed, and much wiser then believer's---and then it logically follows that most of these "bright" folks who are beyond the "hocus-pocus " of God, consider themselves to even be brighter, or even more intellectually astute for that matter...But trust me Charles, there IS a soul in each and every one of we The Souled Creatures roaming the earth...'course your's is now rather suspect! And there IS a "God", yet of course that doesn't necessarily mean that there is a wise, and sage, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, all LOVING entity watching over each and every Souled Critter on the planet, 24-7, with but a little hiatus for Christmas Holidays---and THAT is why "God" has been instilled/installed in each of us (The God Chip I call it) , within that SOUL you do not believe in. Cont.
Vince September 09, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Cont.: The KJ version of The Holy Bible has the hand of MAN all over it, so most of what is in there TODAY (and for the past several hundred years since it was adopted) is surely tainted----but then again, there are ancient texts that precede what is in The KJ version , and most all of The Book of Genesis came from those most ancient texts---of course they were tweaked a bit to suit MAN'S desires---and those ORIGINAL ancient texts not only show far beyond a doubt that MAN himself has tampered with the contents (when comparing The KJ version to the ancient texts from which they sprang), but they also show there is another, much more compelling story behind the "story" that Christian's and other's of a religious bent have been force fed as TRUTH. In closing, trust me Bunky, there IS a universal power that IS NOT a part of what is in that there bible I have been speaking of---what is in there is a truth in and of itself, to a degree, but a truth tampered with, and tempered by MAN, since the WHOLE truth would be quite difficult for most people to accept thanks to many years of EARTHBOUND indoctrination. So please take you some solace, because Uncle Vinny has now bestowed a SOUL upon you, which may turn out to be a good thing for you when eternity comes ta knockin' at your door.
Charles September 09, 2012 at 10:26 PM
"...trust me Charles..." I don't trust you.
Vince September 09, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Well then Charles, THAT is the beautiful thing about most God based religions: Free Choice! 'Course if we was talkin' Islam, some radical's might could maybe wanna redecorate your neck with a big ol' slice through...And that there is one of things that always makes me rather amazed: Ishmael (Islam), and Issac both hail back to Abraham (his sons by two different wimmin's) , yet the religions they each are affiliated with, and thought to be founders, or co-founders of, are bitter enemies to the death...and both religions do accept Abraham as an integral part of thier religious foundation, and beliefs...curious, no? ***** Hey, hey, hey, HEY Js, Charles is entitled to his opinion, and these Patch's are Topic/Reply oriented, and so then it follows that many opposingt opinions may be represented thanks to the Topic presented....easy thing to do, barring kicking someone out because you disagree with thier opinion, is to skirt over their Posts....pretty simply, huh?
Jenna September 09, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Vince, obviously you don't understand that EVERY time Charles takes a tragedy and turns it into an opportunity to spew his opinions. I love opinions. What I do not like is Charles capitalizes on tragedy to preach his opinion. There are more appropriate venues. People are dying-loved ones are crying. And sure enough there is Charles to capitalize on it. What he needs is a blog!!! Stay on topic-read the headline and comment responsibly.
Martin Henderson (Editor) September 10, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Thanks for your comments on this topic, but let's get back on point. Everyone has different opinions and is entitled, but comment responsibly. Remember, these comments are often read by family members and friends. This is not a story about God and religion and this is not the place to debate it. Simply accept that others have differing opinions, and if someone wants to say "God bless you," others may be inclined to say "I wish you the best." In defense of Janie D., I asked the question at the bottom of the story why so many contemplations of suicide this summer and she provided her opinion. That's cool. Turning it into a political issue maybe not as cool. But she brings up valid points. Be respectful of everyone, please. @EVanH, two of the deaths on the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge were accidental; only one (the first) was mentioned in the story. @Js, you make good points about Charles' commenting -- he is committed to his anti-God bias and often responds too much. However, you can't call him a soulless pervert, so your comment has been deleted. @Charles -- dude, dial it back a bit. Everyone knows where and how you stand; don't get in a spitting contest over this stuff. The stories of suicide, suffering and tragedy are not the places to wage your battles. @mfriedrich and @Chris McLaughlin ... good list and good idea, I will add to the end of the story. Remember, keep it classy, smart and respectful.
ms.sc. September 10, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Alright Carol, I do sadly agree with you on your post. I still believe we can also modify bridges.
carrie September 10, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Every time someone does something as horrible as suicide people come up with the same opinions. Well, they were upset over something, they are obviously very depressed, how can someone do something like that, etc, etc. Or they rush to their personal opinion, hey nothing could be that bad or they seemed so happy, had great families, wonderful children, etcetera. Well, all that sounds good, but tell me anyone who really knows what is going on in anyones's life, I don 't care how happy they appear to be, or how much you think they should be grateful for, there's obviously some thing horribly missing in their lives that noone knows about, their pride comes into effect and they don't tell all whats really going on behind closed doors. If they have health problems, they may not that the kind of emotional support they need and they feel all alone and desperate. Especially if for some reason their families do not understand any of what they are going through and especially if they are depressed. They may be going through hell internally and feel lost and lonely and if they have never gone throught that before and have never felt needy and suddenly need others they can show it in ways that just cannot be understood by the people who they think know them, and when they lose the friends or children who just don't understand their only way out can certainly turn to suicide. It can be that desperate when their health and love from family is not forthcoming. Think about it
Mike J September 10, 2012 at 12:32 AM
In the U. S., since 2009, death by suicide now out paces death from HIV and AIDS by a 2-1 margin. That's twice as many deaths from suicide as HIV and AIDS. I bet none of you would have guessed that fact. Yet we continue to raise money for AIDS, cancer, diabetes etc. And we should continue to support a cure for those ailments. It's sad that mental illness is kept in the dark and swept under the rug. People who find themselves in need of help are often too ashamed to ask for help. We live in a society that is quick to pass judgement on others who differ from the masses emotionally, sexually and physically. In the current state budget crisis, help for people in emotional and mental distress has been put on the back burner. Why? Because it's much easier to look the other way than to reach out and help those in need of mental health
ms.sc. September 10, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Did many forget a life ended? Did you pause in silence and reflect how peaceful and happy your life is? I did. I felt more love for my 80 yr. old dad, my sister who just turned 50, my aunt who is now 87 today. Yes, somehow this precious, senseless loss of life woke up my reality even more to love precious LIFE and not take it for granted. I am so sad for her decision. We all have a choice. Blessings and peace for her family and friends as she left behind much hurt and no comfort.
Christina September 10, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I have written to the city multiple times about putting a fence on this bridge. They keep saying they are looking into it. 3 years later, still nothing has been done.
Vince September 10, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Christina, "fence cages" will keep the accidents to a minimum, but those who are serious about ending their own life will simply find another avenue. Personally, jumping off stuff, bolting in front of cars, or trains, and maybe even slitting wrists seems a tad too primitive, and are rife with the potential of survival---whereas far too often "survival" then means ending up in the form of a vegetable, with maybe useless limbs, and only then to become a real burden to loved ones....Heck, sucking on the business end of a pistol would do the job nice and quick...'Course whomever finds THAT handiwork may have long term psychological effects added to the mix to haunt them for many years to come...So far as the prevalence of suicides being on an uptick of late? Personal economics seems to be a pretty constant theme nowadays... Suicide IS the ultimate selfish act, and if it ONLY impacted the person who decides to check out early by whatever means, it would be no biggie---BUT, again, loved ones are effected in a big way...
MFriedrich September 10, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Liz, You seem remarkably sure that there's a political angle to this woman's suicide? Please explain. Are we seriously to believe that every time an individual decides to commit suicide because they are medically and financially distraught that there's an automatic cause to action against whoever happens to be President or in Congress? How exactly do you deduce that a woman's suicide is linked to "things..." that "have been building for about 4 years now" ? What evidence do you have of this? 4 years? Why not 5 years? Why not 1 year? The fact is Liz, you and your compadre Janie, have no idea why this woman committed suicide. It could be any combination of things. I'm sure your political opinions are just fascinating, but I think it's insensitive and inappropriate to take this poor woman's suicide and make extraordinary claims of linkage to political or macro-economic situations that you don't even understand yourself. On a side note, I recommend you publicly apologize to the family for supporting arguably the stupidest comment yet on this story.
Joel Sax September 10, 2012 at 05:51 AM
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255 -- You are not alone.
Joel Sax September 10, 2012 at 06:02 AM
Mike, you have it right. Funding for helping deal with mental illness is the first to be cut by legislators. Cedars of Sinai Hospital recently closed down its psych ward as "unprofitable". There are 10 beds for people with plain depression/bipolar disorder/schizophrenia in San Diego County (everyone wants to help an addict, but not someone a person who has avoided using drugs and alcohol with one of these conditions). Our heads are upside down on these matters. It takes more than a fence -- it takes the involvement of the community and help for those considering suicide.
Joel Sax September 10, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Persons suffering from depression can also contact the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of South Orange County for information about their support group meetings at 949-635-9211. One in four people with bipolar disorder attempts suicide. One in ten people with depression tries the same. This is the product of a disease, not a character flaw.
sharon girulat September 10, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Thank you, Joel! Great updates. And a reminder...those are both organizations which include and appreciate volunteers! So, all who 'talk' such concern, get moving and HELP, donate time, money, resources; share your skills to help encourage them. For those who don't care to believe that either religion or politics is, or should be involved: OK...Then what are YOU doing to help? Keeping your eyes open every day for someone in need, who you might engage and direct to (or become) a support line? Passing the buck gets harder as the numbers increase and resources decrease. We can be those 'safety nets' on the bridges, and highways and other places where people decide to give up. (BTW, hugs go a long way to help a depressed person. AND, letting them share one with YOU... empowers them to feel worthy. TRY THAT!) I hope this family will find the strength to help each other, and find external help. Their loss must be horrific. I hope they will seek the support, and find it, to move forward in this crazy world. I cannot imagine their pain, but hope there will be some relief, in time.
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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