As a blogger, to me Digg is like those supermarket checkout stand fishwraps that let us know when Bat Boy got married, and sometimes offer the occasional newsbit (but mostly the former). Up late last night I parsed this item, found on Digg’s front page, about whether or not (and how) to survive a jump or fall from very high, and they use the Golden Gate Bridge as an example to explain their theories. Here’s a snip off The Straight Dope:
Scientists have long been fascinated by what happens to people who fall from great heights without a parachute. Unsurprisingly, most of them get killed; perhaps surprisingly, a few don’t. A prime example of the latter was a 17-year-old male who in 1979 leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge from a height of 250 feet. According to one report, “he recount[ed] a slowing of time initially, and mid-fall, when fully realizing the oncoming impact, strove to adjust his attitude to the vertical feet-first position. An almost perfect entry was achieved. Although dazed, he swam to shore” and checked into a hospital, where his worst injury turned out to be several cracked vertebrae.
Walking away from something like that is rare. The Golden Gate Bridge is said to be the most popular suicide location in the world–at least 1,200 people had jumped as of 2003, of whom fewer than 20 survived. A more typical outcome was that of a stuntman calling himself Kid Courage, who jumped off the bridge in 1980 trying to set a free-fall record. He landed flat on his back and was dead when pulled from the water with massive internal injuries.
The key to survival appears to be vertical entry.
What’s especially interesting to me is that I screened the first showing of Eric Steel’s The Bridge, about GG Bridge suicides. Here is my huge writeup and review of the film — and if you look closely in the comments, you’ll see that the man who survived, and his father, both left comments on my post. But in the film (and after, onstage) a young — and a jumper much more recently than 1979 — GG Bridge suicide survivor spoke about his experience and how he survived. A few months later, I posted this infographic about popular GG Bridge suicide spots — we have jumpers every 2 weeks. So is “the straight dope” really that straight?
I never saw this movie, but I remember reading some commentary about it when it came out (maybe teh Chronic).
Barriers have been erected at other “popular” suicide spots around the nation and the end result is that people don’t jump. That’s right, they don’t go somewhere else to jump, they don’t find a “new spot”. All the debate about the effectiveness of a barrier is retarded. Barriers work; it just needs to be about six feet tall. People don’t want to scale something like that (the Empire State Building is a classic example).
Some people seem to favor a net, but it’s not a practical solution in terms of maintenance. The bay is windy and the nets would frequently have to be repaired. They would also accumulate a lot of debris. Plus, there is nothing preventing the person from climbing to the edge of the net and jumping again.
I don’t know if this was mentioned in the movie or not, but the biggest problem with surviving the plunge from the Golden Gate isn’t necessarily the multiple fractures you’ll sustain. It’s the water. It’s maybe sixty degrees during late summer and closer to fifty degrees in the dead of winter. Most people will pass out from hypothermia in a few minutes and drown before the Coast Guard can reach them. My guess is that how most jumpers die.
The Bay has ebb and flood currents up to four knots. You can’t swim against that sort of current. The athletes that swim from Alcatraz use these currents to their advantage; if you pick the wrong line, it’s like swimming a couple extra miles. There is also a small backflow current by the shore moving the opposite direction of the primary current, but that’s less of an issue.
Surviving the fall is probably a combination of vertical entry (fewer broken bones, less chance of concussion since people tend to drown when unconscious in water), the amount and direction of bay current, and just some dumb luck (mostly jumping next to a boat).
In the case of this 17-year-old survivor from 1979 mentioned in the Straight Dope link, he probably jumped very close to shore, especially if he did hit the bottom as he claims (that would also explain his easy swim to shore despite his injuries). The water is three hundred feet deep around the center of the bridge so there’s no way he jumped there and hit bottom.
Suicide is an impetuous act – or the act of an ill person lacking the capacity to make a sane decision. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Limiting access to the means of death has proved to dramatically reduce suicides 98% of those stopped never attempt suicide again not just at the Golden Gate but in every instance.
The rails at the Golden Gate Bridge are simply too low and access is too great.
Four people try to die there every week…
and one succeeds meeting a most horrible death.
But as the “Bridge” shows true victims are the loved ones left behind many of which carry terrible emotional scars the rest of their lives…tragically blaming themselves – often trying to also kill themselves out of guilt.
San Franciscans and the people of the Bay Area
are now well aware of the horror taking place almost daily at the Golden Gate and as such have a moral obligation to do something to help end the deaths at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since 1937 we have been kept in the dark but now via the Internet the facts surrounding death at the Golden Gate Bridge are finally seeing the light of day.
You can help stop the carnage – you can help raise
public awareness you can help raise the rails
For more information see