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DISASTERS

California Teen Survives Jump Off Golden Gate Bridge

SAN FRANCISCO -- A California high school student visiting the Golden Gate Bridge on a Thursday morning field trip climbed over a railing, jumped -- possibly on a dare by fellow classmates -- and somehow survived the 220-foot plunge into San Francisco Bay that kills dozens of people each year.

Most jumpers die a grisly death, with massive internal injuries, broken bones and skull fractures. Some die from internal bleeding, while others drown.

But the 17-year-old lived, and a statement from his school said he suffered no severe injuries beyond bruising and tenderness. He was rescued by a surfer who paddled over and took him ashore, California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Rardin said.

"It's a miracle in itself," Rardin said. "The majority of folks do not survive this type of fall."

Windsor Unified School District Superintendent Bill McDermott said he didn't think the teen was trying to commit suicide, but instead jumped after other students from Windsor High School in Sonoma County urged him on. Students saw the teen go over the railing.

An ambulance rushed the teen to a San Francisco hospital. Officials couldn't provide further details Thursday night on his condition.

Someone leaps off the iconic bridge an average of once every two weeks -- last year, 32 jumpers died. About 98 percent of those plunges end up being fatal and authorities rule most of those deaths suicides.

The Marin County Coroner's Office and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District have said that up to 1,500 people have died after jumping off the bridge since it opened in 1937.

Last fall, transportation officials approved $5 million in federal funding to design a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. Plans include a stainless steel net that would hang below the span.

The final design isn't complete and installation is at least several years away, bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie told the San Francisco Chronicle.