Coachella 2011: Ferris wheel jumper saved from fall -- or rescued by a superhero

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A young woman who attempted to jump out of a Coachella Ferris wheel gondola was saved from almost certain injury late Friday evening when a nearby companion grabbed her legs and held onto her until the gondola could be lowered, an Indio Fire Department spokesman has confirmed. A potentially major crisis was averted as the woman was unharmed.

News of the incident didn’t appear to be widely known around the Coachella grounds, but some concertgoers reported hearing rumors of a woman jumping hundreds of feet only to get caught at the last second.

Fire battalion chief Daniel Talbot disputed that rumor but was scant on details. He said the department received a call that a woman had jumped from the Ferris wheel; from what height was unknown. The department went into hazard mode and radioed for a helicopter.

Indio police were first to the scene, and the would-be jumper, ‘a young lady mentally altered on substances,’ said Talbot, was taken off-site for further care. It was unclear whether the jumper was saved by someone riding in the same gondola, or was caught by someone in the gondola below her. (Rumors of the latter version include someone in the second gondola yelling ‘I will catch you’ before the attempted jump.)


Photos: Panoramas of Coachella 2011

Details varied wildly even among city officials. Benjamin Guitron, a spokesman for the Indio Police Department, confirmed the incident, but said, ‘I thought it was a man’ who tried to jump. He said a woman was arrested at the Ferris wheel last night for drunk and disorderly conduct.

The Ferris wheel is running Saturday afternoon, and the woman selling tickets, who identified herself as the owner, refused to speak to a reporter. ‘I haven’t heard that and don’t know anything about what you’re talking about,’ she said. ‘No comment.’

A spokeswoman for promoter Goldenvoice’s publicity firm, MSO, said she was unaware of the incident, and the story took on increasingly exaggerated tones as the day continued. “I heard she was saved by a masked crusader,” said one security official who heard the unsubstantiated rumor as he was walking by.

Despite the Ferris wheel scare, Talbot said this has been a relatively safe and incident-free Coachella. Onsite medical staff on Friday treated 150 people –- “nothing serious,” said Talbot –- and transported 12 to a nearby hospital. Talbot noted that Goldenvoice had invested more this year in emergency medical staff, and added, “from my perspective, it’s paying off.”

Images from the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

“There has been nothing real serious at this point,” Talbot said. “Things have been real good, knock on wood.”

Guitron said there were 20 arrests on the first day of the event, all alcohol- or drug-related.

Pop & Hiss will update if any details come more into focus. Or if an Indio superhero is discovered.


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-- Todd Martens