East Bay family helped girl who survived Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempt

Posted: 04/18/2011 04:04:07 PM PDT

ALAMO — Eric Hall was sailing the Bay Sunday morning with his dad and two teenage sons when they saw a splash near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Their first thought was that they had spotted a whale breaching the water. However, they then saw the usually happy, waving pedestrian crowd on the bridge pointing to the water.

What they found was a 16-year-old girl, an unconscious, bloodied bridge jumper who they helped keep afloat until professional rescuers arrived.

“Ten minutes later, she would have washed up at Alcatraz,” said Hall, who said the incident happened just before 11 a.m. during the “maximum flood” period — when currents were rapidly moving into the bay and “running like a river,”

He said they also battled the fog and wind to reach her.

Eric Hall, left, with his sons Ethan, second from left, Henry, right, and his father Merle on Monday, April 18, 2011 in Alamo, Calif. The Halls were on a two-day sailing trip in San Francisco Bay when they pulled a young woman from the water under the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (Aric Crabb/Staff)

Hall, a marketing executive between jobs, and his dad, Merle, a former Walnut Creek mayor and city councilman, are avid sailors who often go out with Eric’s sons Henry, 15, and Ethan, 14. They were using an almost 40-foot sailboat chartered for the weekend and were headed out when they saw the splash about mid-span, a little closer to the San Francisco side.

With all taking a part, from keeping an eye on her location in the water to manning the sails, they reached her; Eric Hall then jumped in and kept her afloat.

He said the girl had blood on face and was motionless. He didn’t realize she was alive until he heard moaning sounds and saw her coughing up blood. He said he

didn’t want to move her and cause more injury. He kept her afloat until professional rescuers arrived.

“It looked pretty gruesome,” he said.

Despite the difficulty of holding the boat in the strong current, Eric Hall’s sons proved they were good sailors.

“I was a little shaken up because it was so sudden,” Henry said. “But I was determined to get to her.”

Added Ethan: “It’s probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.”

The Coast Guard received the call from the San Francisco Fire Department at 10:53 a.m. Rescuers from the Coast Guard station in Sausalito reached her at 11:13 a.m., Coast Guard spokesman Levi Read said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Patrick Roth said the girl, whose name is not being released, is from Southern California and was with family on vacation when she handed her sister a diary that contained a suicide note. Details weren’t available on the circumstances immediately before, but then she jumped.

Roth said the girl did not break any bones, but she did suffer a punctured lung, bruised back and internal bleeding. She is expected to survive — one of a very small percentage of people to survive the 220-foot drop.

Last year, 32 people committed suicide by jumping off the bridge, according to the Associated Press. Jumpers who are not killed on impact often drown after suffering severe internal injuries and broken bones. Only about 2 percent survive, statistics show.