Sea lion saves Golden Gate Bridge suicide jumper, survivor says $210M net in crucial

Almost 20 years ago, Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

As he was falling, he realized he didn't want to die. And he didn't.  

Now, The 37-year-old is making a documentary about the suicide net now being installed on the bridge.

His goal is to save lives. 

Hines says  the partnership between bridge officials and Bridge Rail Foundation, an advocacy group of suicide prevention,  made the steel net possible. 

"What some call the most beautiful man-made structure in the world will finally become the greatest, largest and brightest beacon for suicide prevention around the world," Hines said. He was a 19-year-old struggling with mental illness when he jumped off the bridge in September 2000. 

"I was drowning when I jumped and if it wasn't for the sea lion that was circling beneath me and kept me afloat until the Coast Guard boat was behind me, I would not be here," he said.

He is teaming up with filmmaker Andrew Ross to make a documentary called "The Net." 

Hines described it as a duty and something he must do. 
The film will show the need for a suicide prevention net and the long struggle to turn it into a reality.
"Transform the bridge for the people who may not have a positive image of it.  Transforms it into a place of hope," says Ross who's working with Hines on the film. 
It took decades to see a suicide prevention net come to fruition. 

"For a long time, the Golden Gate Bridge board wasn't ready to make the investment in a suicide prevention net," says Priya Clemens, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge. 

But times and attitudes about mental health have changed.  In 2014, funding for the $210 million project became available. Bridge officials say the suicide prevention net  will be paid for by state and federal funds along with bridge tolls.

"The essence of what we're trying to do is to prevent suicides and to save lives," says Clemens. 
Some steel brackets that will hold the net on both sides of the bridge have been installed.  But more brackets and the net are still being manufactured. To get the work done, crews are working six nights a week, with lane closures in both directions. 

Hines, who also  works as an advocate for suicide prevention, says the few who've survived don't attempt suicide again. 

He says he regretted trying to kill himself and that it was  mental illness that led to his attempt. 
His film and the net are partners in prevention. 
"Not one more beautiful soul life will ever be lost to the bridge.  What a triumph," says Hines. 
The suicide prevention net and the film are scheduled to be completed January 2021. 

Hines says the film will be available for viewing in theaters and on digital platforms. 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.