In a chilling and controversial new documentary, "The Bridge," filmmaker Eric Steel attempts to capture and explain the draw of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge to people contemplating suicide. Over the course of a year, Steel filmed the iconic bridge from various angles, capturing 24 people’s final moments of life before they plunged to their deaths.
In the documentary, Steel also interviews those who survived suicide attempts from the Golden Gate.
Kevin Hines, now a suicide prevention advocate, is one of them.
In an interview with "20/20’s" Bob Brown, Hines recounts the tale of a fateful day in 2000, when he decided to take his life, only to change his mind milliseconds after jumping.
After failing to grab the railing, he managed to turn himself in midair — feet first so he could survive the impact.
Hitting the water at 75 mph, he sank to an estimated 50 feet, with two shattered vertebrae. Struggling to the surface, he floated until rescuers reached him.
Below is an excerpt of Hines’ riveting interview:
I took the bus to — to Walgreen’s where I got a couple of candy things and sugar for the last meal, you know, it might as well taste good and I don’t have enough dough to buy anything else. And then I got to another bus straight out to the Golden Gate.
So I got on the bus when it came and I sat in the back. And I always sat in the back in those days. I like to, I like to people watch, you know. I like to pretend I know what they’re thinking and get into their heads.
But now I was only in my head, in the back looking around. And I started begging myself internally for God to find someone to come up to me and ask me if I was OK, do you need any help, something wrong, why are you crying?
I, I had said to myself, which is very common in, in suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation among the mentally ill, is that you give yourself a way out, but you, yourself don’t start that way out.
You, you ask someone in your brain — like they can read your mind — to, to you know, smile at you or to say something, so you can say, I need your help. And you will say it, but only if they say it first.
So I, I said to myself, well, if someone comes up to me, you know, and so I’m crying softly to myself, you know, eating my Starburst, crying in the back, right in the middle row, looking at all these people waiting for that, for that angel to come down and tap me on the shoulder and say, hey, are you OK?
And that in itself is just a grandiose kind of a psychotic nature of suicidal thought. That’s not how the world works. People don’t have tel — telepathy — at least not the ones I knew on that bus, you know. So you know, you get to the bridge and you step off the bus reluctantly.
You’re the last person — I was the last person off the bus. Look at the bus driver, waiting for him to say something, and he goes, come on, now.
You know like, I gotta go and you go, walk off the bus onto the concrete pavement, to the sidewalk. And I sat down near the flagpole there. I think I kind of looked at Joseph Strauss’ statue. I thought well, here goes.
Now I’m sobbing. So I walk on the span, back and forth, back and forth, up and down, up and down. I felt like it might have been 30, 40 minutes.
I’m hearing these voices and they’re getting louder and louder. By the time I stepped on the span, there was a booming echoing voice in my head, jump now, die. Kill yourself, jump, kill yourself, die. Jump now, jump now.
You know, all kind of mean, mean things that I, that I have created in my psych — psyche, psychosis that are screaming in my head. Not your conscience, not a friend, it’s this guy you don’t know and you don’t recognize the voice and he’s yelling at you, do it. It’s just, that’s the facts.
And — and then this woman, you know, this is the part I’ll never forget because it was so stuck in my mind — this woman comes to me and says, "Vill you take my picture?" in a German — not in a, in a European accent, I don’t know which one it was.
"Don’t you see the tears pouring down my face, lady?" You know, I’m thinking, you know, how could she? And that doesn’t make any sense, and that’s selfish right there. But how could she? How could she look at me and walk away?
And so, you know, I took her picture a couple times. And she walked away and I took a couple steps back and I ran and I threw myself over the rail.
And at that moment, at the second of free-fall, at the second, at the millisecond, my God, I don’t want to die. What did I just do?
Well, I remember throwing my arm back or trying to. You know, try to — to grab that rail but too late. You’re in the air, buddy. It’s, it’s sink or swim now. And I had never heard of anybody surviving this thing. I didn’t know that was even possible. And I, and I had thought like many, that you hit the water and you die.
You just float away into the mist and that’s a common thought among people in San Francisco and outside. So I’m in the air and my head’s falling head first and I say to myself — in four seconds, I say to myself, you hit the water head first, you’re surely gonna die. There, there’s no debating that, it’s over. Look at how you are, how high up. And so I threw my head back as much as I could, and I landed feet first in a sitting position.
And I felt an explosion in my stomach. It’s been misread but you know, my, my stomach ruptured. That’s not what happened. I felt an explosion in my stomach or in that area, and that was because two of my vertebrae had shattered into very tiny little pieces, splintering into many of my organs, I think, missing my heart and my lungs.
That could be incorrect. I don’t know. But as far as what I was told and understood. So these vertebrae pieces, these shards like splinters you know [MAKES NOISE] splattered and went into my organs and I felt that briefly. And then I just felt myself going underwater, very deep.
So you know, I’m in the water and I — but the thing was, I opened my eyes. I opened my eyes. I’m alive. You kidding me? You know you can’t breathe. What do you do? And it’s dark, black, murky water. You’re down there pretty deep. Which way do I go? Can I even — which way is up? And then you just instinctively, you move. My legs would not move at all.
You know, maybe flail within the waves, but nothing else. And so I, I just moved my arms and I swam this way. Nope, not getting up, are we? This way. No, going down now. But whatever the direction that I was going, because when you’re in the water, you’re just flipping up and down, see.
So I didn’t know where I was or what direction — and then you see the light. You see a little light. A circle of light —lighted, lit water, and you go. And I remember that before I got to the surface, I thought, I’m gonna pass out and die and drown right now because I can barely hold my breath anymore. And, and you know, when you drown, you’re trying to find the air and if you don’t make it, you know, that’s it. You go down again.
And I got to the surface finally. Big breath of air, but it wasn’t that big because I’ve had an asthma attack. My asthma’s going crazy and I can’t really, I can’t really get good air. And — and I’m looking around as much as my neck can move, wading in the water, going well, wait a minute.
And you look up and the bridge looks like this tiny thing, this strip of nothingness. Can’t even see people on it. And you go holy cow, I just did that. I’m gonna die here. There’s no way I’m getting out of here. There’s no one coming to get me.
I’m up in the water again, bobbing up and down, trying to stay afloat, and something brushes by my legs. And I, oh, man, I’m being eaten by a shark. I say this in my speeches, you know, I’m gonna get eaten by a shark? Are you kidding me? This was not the plan and I’m pissed now.
And I, I’m reaching down, trying to punch this thing, you know, you know, with all the might of my arm, it’s not really working. [MAKES NOISE] You know, and so this thing’s moving around, moving around and it’s circling me and it’s bumping me and then I realize, wait a minute, I’m not — I’m not waiting in the water anymore. I’m kind of just floating here.