Kevin Hines who jumped from the Golden Gate bridge survived because, as he fell toward the water, decided that he wanted to live after all, and positioned himself so he hit the water feet first. He suffered serious injuries but was kept afloat by a black seal swimming below
“Meet Kevin Hines. At age 16 he was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder — characterized by dramatic mood swings and waves of paranoia and depression. Intensive psychiatry and cocktails of mood stabilizers alleviated some of the emotional downspins, but not all. His parents got divorced. His favorite drama teacher committed suicide. He started hearing voices. His girlfriend broke up with him.
At 19, Kevin just couldn’t face the thought of living anymore. So Monday morning he boarded the 28-19th avenue bus to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge…
At almost 9,000 feet long and 746 feet high, the bridge is an engineering masterpiece — a symbol of San Francisco and America recognized around the world. Yet for many, the bridge carries a darker side. Since it’s 1937 construction, more than 1,250 people have chosen to end their lives here (an average of 24 per year). More than any other destination in the world.
Kevin stood in the park lot for a long time, the voices taunting him, “you are a burden on on those whole love you. You can’t go back.“ Finally he walked out onto the span, crying the whole way. Nobody stopped to ask what was wrong. He found a perfect spot mid-bridge. No railing separating him from the blank void of oblivion. No pylons to interrupt his downward fall.
Still he waited. A bike cop pedaled past without pause. Two construction workers drove right by the sobbing youth with barely a side glance. 40 minutes passed. “Doesn’t somebody, anybody care?” Kevin thought in despair. And then a hand tapped his shoulder. He turned, tears streaming down his cheeks, to find the glamorous smile of a beautiful woman. She lowered her Breakfast at Tiffany’s shades, and extended a small camera. And in a deep German accent she brightly asked, “Do you mind taking my picture?”
“This is it,” Kevin thought. “no clearer sign than that.” He snapped the photo, and the second the woman walked away… he took three hurtling steps and dove headfirst off the Golden Gate Bridge.
At over 800 feet, it takes a 6 second eternity to plummet, falling at over 120 miles per hour — near terminal velocity. But it only took Kevin the fraction of a blink, in that space between his foot leaving the edge and the ocean filling his future, to decide he had made a terrible mistake. He didn’t want to die. And in the next blink he begged God to let him live.
They say when you fall from great heights, you black out before you hit ground. You brain simply short-circuits – the final kill-switch of self-preservation. In Kevin’s case this wasn’t true. He managed to flip himself mid-air to a sitting position, the gray Pacific fast approaching. He knew he only had one chance – so he threw his head back, planted his feet… and hit the water like a watermelon hitting concrete.
The impact instead broke his back and shattered his vertebrae. He sank down into the frigid depths, his aerial freefall nothing compared to the enveloping darkness of his forty foot dive. But the indescribable pain kept his survival senses sharp — he was still ALIVE. And kick by kick he clawed his way back toward the surface and the light.
And here is where the miracle happened. Yes it was a miracle the impact didn’t instantly kill him. It was a miracle he managed to reach surface with a broken back. But now, with hypothermia fast approaching and wet jeans and heavy boots dragging him back under, Kevin was still very much alive and still very much a goner. And as his head slipped back under the green waters, something large and sleek brushed his legs. “Perfect,” Kevin thought, “I survived the bridge only to be eaten by a shark!”
Only it wasn’t a shark, but a large seal, who circled Kevin for the next 10 minutes until the Coast Guard finally arrived. Pushing him up from beneath and keeping his afloat. The seal protected him, saved his life. And to this day and forever Kevin believes it was God, his guardian angel, sent to give him a second chance, a whole new life purpose.”