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Star athlete leaps to his death off Route 28 bridge

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
State police and South Buffalo firefighters work near the bridge over the Route 28 Expressway in South Buffalo where a man jumped to his death on Wednesday afternoon.

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Previous suicides on the Buffalo Creek bridge

There have been at least four other suicides in which a person went over the side of the Route 28 bridge over Buffalo Creek since March 1998. There was at least one other incident in which a person contemplating suicide was saved before he or she could act.

• Nov. 19, 2009 : A 53-year-old Sarver man apparently jumped from the bridge after making a previous attempt on his life at his residence. No one saw him jump, but his abandoned car was spotted and someone looked below the bridge. The incident was believed to have occurred between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. It was the second suicide off the bridge in less than a month. • Oct. 24, 2009: Authorities said a South Buffalo Township man leaned against the bridge railing and shot himself so that he fell over the deck.

Authorities said the man was seen sitting on the northbound bridge railing at about 2:35 p.m. A motorist reported seeing a man fall backward off the side of the bridge.

When the body was examined, it was discovered that the man had a single gunshot wound to the chest.

A pistol was found next to the body; his car was parked on the bridge. • March 12, 2008: A 47-year-old Buffalo Township woman apparently committed suicide at 9:20 a.m. A teacher, the woman was a specialist at an area kindergarten. She was married and the mother of two children. • May 30, 2007: An East Franklin woman was pulled back over the railing after she slipped following a 45-minute standoff with police. The woman had been sitting on the top of the narrow, low-slung bridge wall when she apparently tired and slipped over the side. She prevented the fall by grabbing onto the railing. One of her shoes fell as she tried to scramble back up. Police rushed her, and her pants tore as they tried to hoist her back onto the deck. Within 10 seconds, as a police car-mounted camera recorded, three state police officers were able to pull the woman back up to safety. • May 26, 1998: Authorities say a 58-year-old South Buffalo Township man jumped from the bridge deck despite the pleadings of a close friend. Police said the man was a passenger in the friend's car driving on Route 28 toward Freeport at 4:15 p.m. As they approached the high-level bridge, the victim asked his friend to pull over so he could look over the side.

Police said the man straddled the bridge as if he were going to jump. His friend pleaded with him and grabbed his arms. Three other people also witnessed the tragedy.

Police said the man was apparently depressed over the recent death of his mother, with whom he resided. He had been receiving psychiatric counseling.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 11:04 p.m.

A multi-sport star athlete at Freeport Area High School who went on to play football at Slippery Rock University apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon when he stepped off the side of a Route 28 bridge high above Buffalo Creek, officials said.

State police and Armstrong County Deputy Coroner Brian Myers said Derek Durand, 20, of Buffalo Township, died from injuries.

The Valley News Dispatch does not report suicides unless they occur in public.

Police said at about 1:30 p.m. they received phone calls about a man who had parked his car and was walking on the bridge.

Durand parked a black Chevrolet Cruze, got out, and walked about 150 feet along the bridge before stepping over the barrier, police said.

The bridge, about 300 feet above the Buffalo Creek valley, carries the expressway between Buffalo Township, Butler County, and South Buffalo Township, Armstrong County.

Freeport firefighters used the Butler-Freeport Community Trail, which passes under the bridge, to reach the dead man's body. It was not immediately known if anyone was on that section of the hiking/biking trail at the time of the tragedy.

It's also unclear if he left a message.

Victim was star athlete

Durand was well known and liked.

Durand was the Valley News Dispatch Athlete of the Year in 2010-11 and was a member of the Slippery Rock University football squad.

Last fall, as a true freshman, he played in six games for Slippery Rock. He made four catches for 49 yards and scored one touchdown.

Durand was one of the WPIAL's most productive receivers and helped to lead Freeport to the quarterfinals.

He also was a star basketball player in high school and collected three medals at the WPIAL Class AA track and field championships several years ago.

Durand's high school and college coaches couldn't be reached Wednesday.

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