A California sailing regatta crew was in the right place at the right time — long before their race had begun.
Scott Walecka, 56, of Santa Cruz, was motoring his 38-foot Sydney 38, named Animal, toward San Francisco Bay Monday afternoon to prepare for today’s Spinnaker Cup racing in Monterey when his daughter Hilary, 23, thought she saw a person jump from the Golden Gate Bridge about a half-mile away.
"At first I thought it was a pelican, but the splash was too big," she told the West Coast sailing publication Latitude 38. "I sat there wondering if I should say something, but then asked if anyone else had seen it."
Moments later, the pair and sailing friend John Mizell heard a Coast Guard radio call for a jumper in the water near the San Francisco end of the span.
Walecka said he saw the man bobbing underneath a California Highway Patrol helicopter and sailed toward him.
"He was alive and wanted to be rescued," Walecka told the Marin Independent Journal. The jumper was pulled aboard with two broken legs and in an apparent state of shock. The crew then handed him off to a Coast Guard crew who took him ashore for medical treatment.
Surviving a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge is a rarity, as most jumpers hit the water at 80 mph. The bridge, saddled with the distinction of having more jumping suicides from it than any other in the United States, has been the site of more than 1,600 confirmed suicides since it opened in 1937. At least 33 people died by suicide from the bridge in 2012.