GoPro Footage Shows BASE Jumper's Tragic Last Leap to Save Friend: 'BASE Jumping Didn't Kill Rami, Friendship Killed Rami'
"These two heroes were students of the world who liked to travel and experience all the world has to offer," friend Matt Lajeunesse tells PEOPLE
A friend of the two BASE jumpers presumed dead after leaping off Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California, on January 20, has confirmed that the previously unnamed Finnish man who parachuted 300 feet down to save his friend was jumping instructor Rami Kajala.
Kajala, well-known in the BASE jumping community for his “kindness and human compassion,” jumped from the bridge to rescue his close friend, American nurse Katie Connell, after witnessing her fall into the rough ocean waves below.
Both are presumed to have drowned.
“BASE jumping didn’t kill Rami, friendship killed Rami,” Matt Lajeunesse, a 34-year-old BASE jumper close to the two victims, tells PEOPLE through tears. “That defines being a good human and defines what good friendship is. He died a hero.”
Monterey County Sheriff’s commander John Thornburg says the entire incident was captured on recovered GoPro camera footage that was attached to Rami’s helmet.
“They both talk about the plan to drift and then land on the small beach at the beginning of the video,” Thornburg told PEOPLE. “Then she gets ready to jump and you hear a cheer from her as she flies through the air to the beach below.
“Unfortunately, she lands in the rough seas and as soon as she does, she’s overtaken by a wave,” he adds.
Cmdr. Thornburg, who describes the video as “hard to watch,” says you can see Connell pop up from the unruly ocean waters once before she gets hit by two more waves – disappearing.
“After she goes under, you see him jump and he lands on the beach, where they were supposed to land in the first place. You see him take his shoot-harness off and fling his helmet into the sand, turning the camera off. The presumption is that they both drowned.”
“Rami would be laughing right now if he heard people calling him a hero,” says Lajeunesse. “I’m sure he was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s just time for me to be a good human. That’s the only thing to do. But that’s what defines a hero, when you don’t think you are one.”
The devoted friend adds, “I hope every person would do what he did in that situation, but really I don’t think everyone would have done it.”
Lajeunesse says he hopes people remember Connell as a hero, too.
“Katie was a traveling nurse, she was a pure and caring person who helped save lives,” he says. “She lived an amazingly active and beautiful life helping others. She had a huge heart and she will be remembered for that.”
The mourning friend adds, “Katie and Rami were students of the world who liked to travel and experience all the world has to offer. The BASE jumping community lost two really good people and two true heroes.”