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Sailing crew rescues bridge jumper

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 to prepare for Friday's Spinnaker Cup racing in Monterey when his daughter, 23-year-old Hilary, thought she saw a person jump from the Golden Gate Bridge about a half-mile away shortly before 2 p.m. on Monday.

"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 apparently in a 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, which is saddled with the distinction of have more jumping suicides from it than any other in the U.S., has been the site of more than 1,600 confirmed suicides since it opened in 1937 and at least 33 people died by suicide off the bridge in 2012.

Click here for a report by the Journal and click here for the report by Lattitude 38, which features photos and Animal’s GPS track on the Bay during its recovery of the jumper.