BASE Jumpers Survive Plunge Only to Drown in Big Sur Waves

It's a technical, short jump to a small landing spot at the water's edge
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2016 1:00 AM CST
BASE Jumpers Survive Plunge Only to Drown in Big Sur Waves
In this photo from Monday, people watch as divers and fire personnel search the area near Bixby Creek Bridge for two people feared dead after a BASE-jumping accident in Big Sur, Calif.   (Vern Fisher/Monterey Herald via AP)

Two BASE jumpers swept into the Pacific Ocean after plunging 280 feet from the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur last week are presumed dead. Authorities found a helmet and parachute on the beach on Saturday, reports CBS News, and are piecing together the details of the Jan. 20 jump that ultimately claimed the lives of Mary "Katie" Connell, a traveling nurse from Tennessee who had just moved to Ventura, and her Finnish instructor. KION identifies him as Rami Kajala and reports he had jumped at least 2,300 times in the last 12 years. The search for their bodies has been called off as of KION's Wednesday night report.

Footage from Kajala's helmet-mounted GoPro shows Connell making the jump first—a technical, short (and not illegal) jump from the Bixby Creek Bridge to a small landing spot where the creek meets the ocean—and being engulfed by a large wave, reports SFist. He then made the jump, quickly discarded his helmet and parachute, and jumped in after her in an apparent attempt to save the 30-year-old. "Two beautiful people are gone," a friend of the victims tells KSBW, adding that both were experienced jumpers but that "accidents do happen." Huge waves have pummeled the coast during El Nino storms. (A famed extreme athlete died earlier this month while preparing for a stunt.)

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