Two BASE Jumpers Presumed Dead After GoPro Video Footage Shows Tragic Last Leap
"When we go the GoPro video processed we knew it was not a homicide or suicide though, just a horrible accident," Thornburg tells PEOPLE
Two BASE jumpers are presumed dead after GoPro footage shows the pair leaping off Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California, Wednesday morning.
The Monterey County Sheriff’s office has identified one of the victims as Mary “Katie” Connell. The name of her companion, a Finnish instructor, has not yet been released.
The horrifying video shows Connell jumping 300 ft. from the California bridge, missing her target below and landing in Bixby Creek, which feeds into the ocean.
The unidentified Finnish man is then seen jumping in after Connell, attempting to rescue her as she disappears into the rough waves.
Monterey County Sheriff’s office commander John Thornburg says the recovered footage is hard to watch.
“They both talk about the plan to drift and then land on the small beach at the beginning of the video,” Thornburg tells PEOPLE. “Then she gets ready to jump and you hear a cheer from her as she flies through the air to the beach below.”
He adds, “Unfortunately, she lands in the rough seas and as soon as she does, she’s overtaken by a wave.”
Thornburg says you can see Connell’s head pop up from the water once before she is hit by two more waves – and never seen again.
“After she goes under, you see him jump and he lands on the beach, where they were supposed to land in the first place,” says Thornburg. “You see him take his shoot-harness off and fling his helmet into the sand. That’s when the camera turns off.”
Thornburg says the presumption is that the unnamed Finnish man then runs into the ocean to save Connell and drowns.
“We have notified the consulate that we believe he has died,” he says. “We are working to try and find the family and will not be releasing his name until then.”
The California commander says BASE jumping (a thrill-seeking sport where people leap off fixed objects) is very popular off of Bixby Bridge, but that there has never been a death related to the sport there to his knowledge.
“Bixby Bridge is actually really popular with suicide attempts, because it’s easy to get swept away by the water,” he says. “When we go the GoPro video processed we knew it was not a homicide or suicide though, just a horrible accident.”
Dive and air teams have been searching for any sign of the BASE jumpers, but so far nothing has been found.