Father wins fight to have teenager’s death ruled accidental, not suicide

VIDEO: Father wins fight to have teenager?s death ruled accidental, not suicide

PUYALLUP, Wash. — When 16-year-old Jordon Gish died after falling from an overpass in Puyallup, his family’s grief was compounded by the Pierce County medical examiner's decision to rule his death a suicide. Now, after a three-year fight, Gish’s death certificate has finally been changed.

The teenager died when he fell from a bridge on State Route 167 while goofing around with a friend around 3:30 a.m. on July 6, 2017. Jordon’s father, Michael Gish, and Puyallup police believed Jordon was trying to jump from bridge to bridge and didn't realize he couldn't clear the distance, falling to his death.

>>RELATED: Puyallup father says Pierce Medical Examiner’s Office lied about video evidence in son’s case

Content Continues Below

But Pierce County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Clark, told the Gish family that surveillance video showed the boy deliberately took his own life. “I was told they had very clear video of my son running across the bridge and jumping off the ledge,” Gish said in an interview with KIRO 7 last August.

Michael Gish filed a lawsuit to have the death certificate changed to an accidental death. But Clark refused to change his opinion and defended his decision under deposition last year.

“I would put jumping off a bridge in the same category as Russian roulette,” Clark testified. "It really doesn’t matter whether a family member says, 'Oh, I don’t think he would have killed himself.'"

With his office embroiled in controversy — including whistleblower complaints by employees and lawsuits filed by families challenging his findings, Clark was offered a retirement payout last September that allowed him to stay on as a consultant until the end of this year.

Now under newly appointed chief medical examiner, Dr. Karen Cline-Parhamovich, the official cause of Jordon Gish's death has been changed.

The old death certificate stated, “The record shows: Suicide - Jumped from overpass." The new death certificate filed Friday states, "The true fact is: Accident - Fell from height probably while attempting to jump between two closely positioned bridges."

Michael Gish told KIRO 7 that he was glad the death certificate had finally been changed but declined further comment.

Pierce County Communications Director Libby Catalinich told KIRO 7 no one was available to comment on the change in the death certificate adding, “reconsideration of a death determination is within the normal course of business in the profession.”