Teen Survives Plunge Off Golden Gate Bridge

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — An eleventh-grade honors student from Windsor High School survived a plunge off San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday, authorities and onlookers told CBS 5.

The 17-year-old was participating in a humanities class field trip and crossing the bridge when he jumped off between the South Tower and Fort Point into San Francisco Bay, said Windsor Unified School District Superintendent Bill McDermott.

Witnesses to the incident, which occured shortly after 11 a.m., used the word “traumatizing” to describe what they had seen.

Miraculously, the boy survived the fall of about 220-feet and was rescued by a nearby surfer who paddled over to him, authorities said.

The surfer, Frederic Lecouturier of San Rafael, said the student’s classmates were “cheering and yelling as he was dropping to what I thought would be a certain death.”

Lecouterier said the boy, who was being evaluated at San Francisco General Hospital for injuries which reportedly included a broken tailbone and torn lung, told him he had jumped for “kicks.”

McDermott said he didn’t think the boy was trying to committ suicide; nonetheless, California Highway Patrol investigators said they were treating the incident as a case of attempted suicide.

But CHP Officer Chris Rardin acknowleged that “statements were made to others (not the CHP) that indicate it might have been a stunt.”

The Marin County Coroner’s Office and the Golden Gate Bridge District indicated that up to 1,500 people have died jumping off the bridge since it opened in 1937. Last year, 32 people were killed in bridge jumps. Prior to Thursday’s event, seven people so far this year had jumped to their deaths.

Authorities estimated someone jumps off the Golden Gate on average of once every two weeks; 99.9% of those plunges end up being fatal and most of those deaths are ruled suicides.

A recent study by the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California found more students hurl themselves off the bridge than any other demographic group.

Mary Currie, a spokeswoman for the bridge district, said if it turned out that Thursday’s bridge jump was done in fun, she worried that the teen’s survival would send the wrong message.

McDermott indicated this was the first time an incident of this type had ever occured on a school field trip in the Windsor district.

The student who jumped was in the company of about 45 students and two teachers on the field trip, the superintendent said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • Ian Billings

    Jumping off the GGB is committing suicide, ‘dare’ or whatever.

    • Mike Powell

      What you all are missing, is that when you AIM to kill yourself from a jump, you can be very successful… If you AIM to just do a stunt, you can ALSO be very successful. The statistics about the Bridge are not about how dangerous it is for everyone… it is ONLY about how good a tool it is for those who intend to end it all… the two concepts are strikingly different.

      Consider… If you drive your car 100 MPH, and you want to kill yourself, you most likely can. If you drive 100, and you DON”T want to die, you also can… in fact, it happens all the time. It depends on what you INTEND to DO.

      If you want to NOT die, you do what Otter did… jump DURING THE DAY. Jump and MAINTAIN A GOOD ENTRY ANGLE. You jump from where the fall is the SMALLEST (No, the height is NOT the same everywhere across the bridge, as anyone that glances at it can easily tell if they have their brain engaged). You jump where you are CLOSE ENOUGH TO SWIM TO SHORE. If you can present the statistics of people specifically attempting to survive GG Bridge jumps, then do so. I don’t think you can.

      Jumpers that want to end it can do the opposite… jump at night, don’t try to enter the water right, jump at the highest point, jump so far from shore you CAN”T swim in… and even after all of that, many STILL live… but since they INTEND to die, they simply drown. (as many do)

      But if you want to do it as a stunt… there are a LOT of things you can do to make it work. Is it still a risk? Of course. All stunts have risk.

      The scoop is, that Otter is a bridge jumper… an odd and dangerous hobby if true… no doubt. Stupid? Judge for yourself. People said that about Evel Knievel. What drives dare devils to do what they do? You tell me.

      I’m not saying he was wise, nor even a careful planner, or even sane.

      I am saying that the statistics for people TRYING to die, are going to be VERY different from those that try to do it as a stunt, and live. VERY VERY different.

      It is fully stupid to try to compare the two, with the same statistics, Just as it is with people that drive 100 MPH.

      • Scott Nepereny

        Yes. It is also very important to jump to a spot where a nearby surfer is available to rescue you.

    • Mike Powell

      No It’s not. The jump isn’t really what does the jumpers in (unless they land wrong)

      The Cliff divers of Acapulco do jumps at over 130 feet… face first, all the time… the trick there is that they water is so SHALLOW, and they have to time their entry with the swells.

      Competitive high divers do triple backflips at over 170 feet… and are judged for style… into shallow water…

      The Kid did a feet first jump… we can all agree not smart… but with all of the high diving done regularly in competition into shallow water… calling a jump like this automatic suicide is, well, ignorant.

      Sorry… but you ought to know a little more about the subject before flapping gums.

      • lotsoflaughs

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      • Steveo

        Was this 17 year old a competitive diver? Does he dive from these heights all the time? You are stoopid. Next time consider the facts of the story

      • Lara Jane

        the deal is that if you DONT know,then taking that kind of risk IS suicide and should NEVER be done without EDUCATION,TRAINING,and PLANNING.was he trained,educated about what makes dives such as these dangerous or what makes them safe?Do you think he had studied the topography of the ocean floor to see the safe places to shoot for?Studied the current? doubt it.any of the other kids that were egging him on trained?doubt it.be more of a critical thinker if you’re gonna leave flip comments,then maybe your words may do some good,not just make you feel good about being soooo much smarter than the other guys.these kids have their whole lives ahead of them to realize that they can do more with than they ever imagined-wouldn’t YOU hate feeling responsible for encouraging someone to take an impulsive,untrained jump that ended in lifelong paralysis??!!

      • J from the bay

        Who should know more Mike?? The highest you said was 170ft. If you read the article, you would have seen that the GGB is a 220ft drop. Around 1500 people have jumped and 26 known to have survived… its suicide.

      • michael calvert

        your forgetting wind…wind makes diving nearly impossible to land properly and that’s also what is signature for golden gate suicides or dives.

        professional divers have attempted to dive and failed with resulting death,numerous times.

  • Elizabeth Pate-Morton

    A girl I went to high school with jumped right after graduation. Took the bus out barefoot and dove right off the edge. Suicide is the only answer here, anyone taking that “dare” is just using that as an exuse to end their life. Very very sad.

    • Becca C

      It was not a dare. Him and some class mates were talking about what it would be like to jump off and he tried it.

    • Mike Powell

      As the report said, this honors student jumps off bridges as a sort of hobby. High dives of this hight, while certainly not common… are not unheard of.

      It’s not the jump, particularly… the problem is that you drown, especially center span. A young, strong, 16 year old that has done this kind of thing before, and CHOOSES to jump near the coast line so that he can swim in afterward…. while you might question his wisdom… it’s certainly not reasonable to start telling everyone that he was trying to end it.

      If he was, he would have done it at center span.

      Nice try.

      I think you need to realize that the world is (probably very often) not what you think it is. Facts are an impressive tool… you should employ them when you can.

      • Mike Powell

        Speak like what? A with threats of physical violence….ah… like you? Maybe you can adopt the rules you currently reserve only for others. Just a thought.

      • Bweetza

        Mike, you sure are an egocentric individual. Try posting to the internet without being an e-thug. If you spoke like this in person, I’d slap the taste out of your mouth.

  • Lynn

    If this was his idea of a dare, the I’m sure his parents will love the medical bills from all the people he traumatized. Unfortunately we live in the age of Jacka– movies where people think things like this are actually funny.

    • Snall

      Unfortunately we live in an era where people can be sue others because they witnessed something like this….

    • Mike Powell

      Lynn, they aren’t traumatized… at least the kids aren’t. My son goes to Windsor High, and called me after the jump…. they are kids. Give them credit. They ride mountainbikes at breakneck speeds down the Sierra mountains, they do black flips on motorcycles… to insane skateboarding stunts.

      Kids aren’t the weak minded things you think they are… the “traumatized” person was probably an adult.

      We can agree however, that tv… where kids see X-Games, and and other MASSIVE feats of daring all the time can’t be helping. I just hope the kid wasn’t high.

      When I was a kid, my house burned down. A little trauma there… But when your classmate jumps off the bridge on a dare (and it was), and he comes away pretty much unscathed… kids are anything from impressed to “what an idiot”…

      We don’t make em weak up here in Windsor, anyway… I don’t know about elsewhere.

      He’ll be a hero when he returns to school… for good or bad.

      • whsstudent

        i was there when this happened.. i was a part of the field trip.. i am very tramatized. i watched him jump and before that i watched people try to grab a hold of him.. dont assume what you think is going on in our heads. thank you.

      • Lara Jane

        not if he returned in a wheelchair.i live in west sonoma co.,they don’t make them weak out here either,but sometimes they die unexpectedly taking stupid risks that they’ve taken a thousand times-but we’d all agree weren’t wise.when i was in high school i missed a desert trip to ride motorcycles in the dunes with classmates.on that trip my friend had a little wipeout,didn’t seem like much.he got up& was riding again in a few minutes happy as a clam.an hour later he keeled over off the bike dead of internal injuries.we all pondered the strange fragility with which we tread this life.in the bath that night i remember having to snap myself out of this weird compulsion to knock the radio off of the edge of the tub into the water.not out of grief,(though there was plenty,)but out of that strange state of mind that comes from seeing our mortality.i was 15,and this is my experience.

      • Angie

        I agree with you Mike. The kids probably are not traumatized..they probably thought it was cool to witness it.

  • 26 jumps a year!

    I never knew that someone jumps off the bridge once every two weeks.

    • Chris Pepper

      I have heard, and not sure if it’s true but my source is someone who worked on the bridge district, that the number may even be higher. They only report ones reported by witnesses, if they catch it on camera and no one reports it, they do not publically notify about it. The number of people who have died is much larger than the official number. Because they fear copycats. I sort of believe it’s true.

      • marion

        pepper, my friend, you’re a huge d-bag.
        where do you get ur omniscience regarding bridge gumps?
        please share with us!

      • Mike Powell

        @ Marion… he SAID it was just something he heard, and only speculate that it may be higher. Lighten up.

  • bubba

    Too bad someone fished him out of the water!

  • raven

    no people don’t jump of very two weeks that lie and new is wrong we get 1 every 6-8months maybe longer
    but people do jump off and if there lucky to make it then there setting in hospital for good 1year 99.4% don’t live to tell about it

    • Len

      Vicki and Ben are correct raven. I don’t know where you’ve done your research but please don’t post false information.
      And Chris is correct in saying The number of people who have died is much larger than the official number. Suicides were counted by the number of people seen to jump and whose bodies were recovered or by people seen to jump by reliable witnesses, even if the person could not be identified or a body was never recovered. Over the years the method was not consistent or reliable.
      Here is a link to a list (not complete) of “recorded suicides”.


      • Mike Powell

        Also, the deaths aren’t the jumps (though if you enter wrong… it probably could be). The real problem is that… obviously, you drown.

        A bad entry will, of course, mess you up though…

        Sailors are trained on how do make high jumps in case of a sinking… there’s ways to do it right.

        It’s nuts… I’d not do it… but of course people say that about rock climbing… and that IS something I do.

      • Jams

        everything you read on the web IS true…

    • Ben

      Sorry bud, people do jump off that often. I live very nearby and witness the coast gaurd choppers searching on what seems like a weekly basis.

    • Vicki

      It is a FACT. On average two people jump every month..watch the movie THE BRIDGE.

    • boondockmom

      Raven,,, where do you live??? The Golden Gate Bridge DOES average 26-34 victims EVERY YEAR. I’m pretty sure the bridge patrol, the CHP, the coroner and medical examiers’ offices and the Coast Guard all know how to count.

  • Luke

    What a fu#$in idiot

  • ghorsey

    no, most people jump off the side facing the city, not the ocean side.

  • Cole Murray

    my sister was there. She is traumatized no, doesn’t ever ant to go to the bridge again. The newspaper got it wrong, no one dared him to do it, he jumped for the thrill of it.

  • Fillmo

    Haha that “Raven” person need to go to elumentree skool to lurn how to write un speek. Sheeeyut.

  • Mark Zemke

    What a dumba** … this is the sort of thing that usually keeps STUPID people from creating MORE stupd people by simply removing them from the gene pool …

  • Renee Milligan

    Since my daughters death from the bridge in 2001 we have been trying
    to urge the bridge to put up safety nets.We need to stop the 35 deaths
    a year and all the teen impulses. Save lives of our loved ones!

    • Dixie

      So sorry about your daughter, as a parent I would be devastated. But if someone really wants to end it all and they couldn’t use the bridge, they will try something else. We’ve had a lot of suicides by jumping in front of trains lately.

      • Dayna whitmer

        Dixie, Most people don’t ‘want to end it’, they want their pain to go away. When their method of choice is removed, they have to sstop and formulate a new plan. That provides time and the chance to get help. Also, the next method may not be AS lethal as the bridge. Firearms are 85% lethal and posioning is under 20% lethal. Many of those saved can go on to lead a full happy life once their issues have been dealt with.

    • Dayna Whitmer

      Renee, I know and I’m so so sorry.

    • marion

      ur doter didn’t die from the bridge…died from her own volishun.
      safety net should not be on the bridge but in the mind, ykno?

      • Erika B

        To Marion and others who are under the impression that a person attempting and/ or completing suicide, did it out of their own free will :
        Mental illness is not something one chooses to have. It is a chemical imbalance, as brain science has discovered. No one willingly wants to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, just to name a few. They fight with all their strength, but sometimes they do NOT win and the disease does.
        Thank your lucky stars that neither you nor anyone in your immediate family have this terrible, invisible killer. Let’s work instead to end the stigma associated with these problems, and to encourage people to ask for help.

        The whole macho bravado about how they make them strong, not wimps in their town(s) is exactly the reason that people don’t come forward and ask for help.

  • http://redbeardedoctopus.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/teens-fate-wasnt-death-off-the-gg-bridge/ Teens Fate Wasn’t Death off the GG Bridge « Accidental Bear

    […] READ STORY […]

  • Joe Vazquez

    Hey, Cole – this is Joe Vazquez here at CBS5. I’m sorry about your sister. It must have been a horrible experience. Please hit me up on facebook so I can make sure and get a firsthand account of what happened. Right now, we’re only hearing from officials.

    • Cole Murray

      I’m sorry, but she doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment. All that I know is that I know people in that class and NONE of them would dare him to do something like that. Along with the rumors other newspapers are saying that the students “egged him on”, that did not happen either because she recalled everyone being in tears because they believed he died. That is all the info i am going to give with the respect for my sister and her classmates. It is not my business, i wasn’t personally there. I’m just trying to dispel rumors because they are hurting my sister. Thank you very much.

      • Joe Vazquez

        Thanks, Cole. I just talked to the principal who tells me some of his classmates were literally grabbing him by the coat, trying to keep him from jumping. And many were in tears. My best to your sister. The good news is that he’s going to be okay.

    • Caroline Grannan

      I’m a retired newspaper journalist. I think that the press needs to be more reticent about reporting rumor like that, whether or not it comes from “official sources.” Media needs to follow the “first, do no harm” principle.

      • marion

        that rool is for doktors, not jernalists.

      • Len

        Thank you Caroline! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Not only “do not harm” but how about reporting facts. “News” is not a far cry from reading “The Enquirer”.

      • Caroline Grannan

        I think jernalists shud addopt that rool to, Marion.

        (I mean, really, shouldn’t everyone adopt it?)

  • fishfry

    Hope the kid’s ok. My comment is about the photo. It’s not possible to get that angle from Baker beach. From Baker beach you are shooting almost parallel to the bridge. If someone knows where this shot was taken from, I’d be grateful for the info.

    • Eric M.

      I’m thinking the photo was taken from Fort Point, just below the South tower.

    • suzanne

      I’m guessing China Beach.

  • Boris

    The Russian judge gives 9.5.

  • kotex napkin

    pete and repeat were walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. Pete fell off, who was left?

  • your mom

    He may have lived, but how was his splash? I give him an 8.

    • i dared him.

      you rock.

      • Tim

        Jack a$$

  • AH

    It saddens me greatly to hear some of these comments. This boy jumped for what ever the reason. And here we are judging him, No one but this 17 year old child know why. Speculations get us no where. Please try and have respect for his family and friends if you cannot for him.
    Try and remember the ones you love and teach them to be open minded and to not act in rash. That will hope lower the jump rate regardless the reason.

  • Anonymous

    You are a racist, bp.

  • Victor

    Next time, that kid should go to iFly in Union City.

  • james

    People WILL find a way to commit suicide. Putting up barries (like at Train stations) or as suggested on bridges will NOT stop people who really want to end it all. It is sad – just walking over an overpass and I get the willies – a hop skip and a jump and if the fall doesn’t kill you the car coming down the lane will.

    This ‘honor’ student needs to be locked up in a rubber room for a while – hell with the hospital checking him out for bruises

  • Jackie Jones Wilson

    Thinking of you and am pained that you have to keep reliving this pain w/ each jump, Renee. You are the strongest person I have ever met & I hope that your voice is heard. Love, JJW

  • Doris Lew

    To all those who say “people will just go somewhere else if they are prevented from jumped from the GGB” – it’s not true. Suicide is more often than not an impulse, take away the easy means (loaded guns, bridges with easy access) and people will have time to think and change their minds. Richard Seiden did a study in the 70s where he identified 515 who were prevented from jumping. He followed up on them and found that on 6% went on to take their lives and only 6 people went back to the bridge.
    My son was one of 40 who jumped and died in 2007. I was not familiar at the time with just how deadly this bridge is but have learned much about it and suicide in general since then.
    I firmly believe that a barrier will save lives. 1,500 more or less confirmed deaths (plus plenty of unconfirmed ones) are more than enough.
    Here’s a link to a very informative article:
    Long, but well worth it.

    • marion

      “take away the easy means (loaded guns, bridges with easy access) and people will have time to think and change their minds.”

      dude, r u serius?
      take away bridges?
      better take away two story building while yer at it.
      and cliffs. and meducins. and knifes. and traffic. and gas.

      u r RONG.
      suiside is not just an impulse. you ahve no statz to back it up.
      most sucidal ppl are depressives and give it much thot.

      • Teacher

        Marion! GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND LEARN HOW TO SPELL! haha you idiot! or should i say: Go bak 2 scool & lern how 2 spel. :)

  • WHS Student

    I go to Windsor High School and personally know many from the core. This was not a dare nor was he cheered on. He was a recent transfer student and this is traumitizing for everyone. And by the way Humanities core is not honors!

    • Joe Vazquez

      Hi, WHS student – Thanks for your reply.

      I’ve just sent an email to another student along these lines. Your principal told me that, in fact, some students were so upset with Otter’s impulsive move that they were in tears … and some were trying to pull him back off the bridge. So, you’re right there is more to the story.

      Please let me know if there are any more details to report.

      • Len

        What is wrong with you people? Do you not understand the concept of “NEWS”??
        You’re so busy rushing to the the first to get the story out. You have no concern for truth or accuracy. You just blurt out the first thing you hear. Nr Vazquez, you and your team, as well as 98% of the other journalists and reporters are only one step away from “The Enquirer”

      • whsstudent

        all the students were freaking out and crying hysterically. i was there but i wish to not give out any information at all. thank you.

    • marion

      obvi its not honours.
      you can’t even spell traumatizing correctly.

    • mp

      Sorry, my son goes to the school too, and he called me right after the jump. He’s surprised… not traumatized. If you were, I’m sorry to hear it… but why? The boy’s ok by a all accounts, and he’ll be back in school soon.

      You will, sadly, lose friends during high school… not from bridge stunts… but from accidents when they are new drivers. It’s sad, but driving is what’s going to get you before anything else, if you don’t take driving seriously… or the dangers of drugs. Those two things DWARF every other danger teens face.

      So no, it’s not traumatizing for everyone. Let’s not be overly dramatic here. It was a hight water jump… and let’s all agree it was stupid, and maybe he got lucky too, but please remember my words… driving, and drugs. FAR bigger issues.

      Enjoy school… and avoid doing stupid things :)

      Take care.

      • k

        I couldn’t agree more! VERY well said! People are making to much of how the “kids” are traumatized yet they will watch movie and read books about it. Seeing it in real life or movie would just surprise you and make you realize it was a stupid prank to impress other classmates. I’m sure no one was crying as he said he was going to jump

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