Some people think jumping off a bridge is a peaceful way to go. One Marin County, CA, coroner, for example, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005 that there's a persistent myth that it's a "light, airy way to end your life, like going to join the angels." But committing suicide by jumping off a bridge, the coroner says, is "not a pretty death," and he should know: he works in the same county as the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world's most popular spots for jumping to your death.
So what happens when you jump off a bridge that high? It's nothing like Olympic high diving, regardless of the skill of the jumper. You hit the water at 75 miles per hour, and after that, a surprising number of things could kill you. Read on to find out what jumping off a bridge really does to your body, and just how slim of a chance you'd have of surviving.
Crabs Might Eat Your Face
It’s an incredibly unpleasant thought, but jumping off a bridge into a large body of water means “severe marine depredation” of bodies not immediately recovered. This sometimes means shark attacks, but more frequently, crab attacks, and they’re very particular about how they dine on you.
Herb Lopez, a Golden Gate Bridge safety patrol sergeant, told Salon they often “go for the eyeballs first, then the soft flesh on the cheeks.”
Lopez knows this because bodies are often recovered using a so-called crab basket, along with a grappling hook, meaning he gets a firsthand look at the damage. “A lot of times, we pull bodies out with crabs hanging off them.”
Your Body May Never Be Found
In the case of Golden Gate Bridge jumpers, the Coast Guard, unfortunately, doesn’t always find the bodies. There are instances, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, of witnesses reporting jumpers who are later never seen again. The Guard, once notified, drops a smoke flare in the water to mark the entry point, but that can take up to five minutes in the best of circumstances.
The New Yorker reported two “vanished” bodies in 2003, possible eaten by sharks or aquatic life. The eddies “stirred by the bridge’s massive stone piers,” Tad Friend explains, can sometimes cause bodies to wash up 30 miles away. Some, however, just never wash up at all.
There's a Small Chance You'll SurviveVideo: YouTube
There’s slim chance you could survive a jump off a bridge as high as the Golden Gate: Kevin Hines, for example, survived the jump in 2000 and later campaigned to add a barrier (which is still in the works as of 2016). Hines was extraordinarily lucky, because "the odds of surviving a jump from the bridge are roughly the same as surviving a gunshot wound to your head."
Research shows that the “most survivable body orientation” for such a jump is a feet-first impact with your arms over your head. This is because of the “increased time duration of deceleration caused by minimal body-surface-area braking action.” Coming in at a slight angle helps your odds, as well.
Your Reproductive System Won't Be Injured
Oddly enough, in Richard Snyder’s 1968 study “Fatal Injuries Resulting From Extreme Water Impact,” of the 169 individuals examined, not a single one of them had any injuries to the reproductive system. This is good news, of course, for the rare survivors of such falls. Snyder’s observations on the topic are brief, but haunting:
There were no injuries in any of these cases to the reproductive system. Although one woman was pregnant and in her second trimester, there was no injury to the uterus or fetus.