Suicide in Big Bend National Park, Texas

It seems all I have been writing about lately are the wildfires currently burning in Texas and New Mexico. Today I take a break to write about a sad fatality in Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend National Park released this tragic news yesterday afternoon.

Jasbo Jerome Whitfield, 29, of of Boerne, Texas took his own life by a self inflicted gunshot wound on the road between Castolon and Santa Elena Canyon at 6:00 PM on April 21, 2011. Big Bend National Park rangers, U.S. Border Patrol, Terlingua Fire and EMS, and the Brewster County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene immediately upon notification.

“We are truly saddened by this tragic death,” stated Superintendent William E. Wellman, “and offer our condolences to the Whitfield family and friends.”

The thought that immediately came to mind was “why in Big Bend?” Surprisingly a large number of people attempt suicide in national parks. Last year Jeff at the Smokey Mountain Hiking Blog brought my attention to the recent CDC study that found 286 suicides where committed or attempted between 2003 and 2009 in our National Parks. 194 (68%) were completed suicides, and 92 (32%) were attempted suicides.

Thankfully Big Bend is not one of top parks for suicide. In fact this is the first suicide in the park since 2006, when a 41-year-old Conroe man killed himself. The following is a list of the top 10 national parks for suicide deaths between 2003 and 2009:

Blue Ridge Parkway: 15 deaths
Colorado National Monument: 12
Grand Canyon: 11
Natchez Trace: 11
Golden Gate: 11
New River Gorge: 9
Yosemite National Park: 6
Cuyohoga Valley: 5
Saguaro: 5
Cape Hatteras: 4
Chattahoochee River: 4
Death Valley: 4
Glen Canyon: 4

I am interested to hear your thoughts on National Park Suicides. Why do you think parks are chosen this often for suicide?

Related Resources:
Fatality in Big Bend National Park

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2 thoughts on “Suicide in Big Bend National Park, Texas”

  1. My guess would be it is a "back to nature" urge or else there is some memory from their past that draws them there. Regardless of why, it is a sad statistic.

  2. ZSandmann

    I have heard other people comment about the peacefulness found in our parks drawing people to spend there last moments there. I guess we will never know why.

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