Authorities were searching for a woman who crashed a stolen vehicle on the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge, climbed over a guard rail and either fell or jumped about 70 feet into the chilly water below early Wednesday.
The woman was last seen, soaking wet, hitching a ride from a dump-truck driver in Oakland, near the bridge, said Officer Vu Williams of the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP hopes to find the woman, believed to live in the East Bay, to determine whether she was injured. At the moment, Williams said, the case of the vehicle, which was stolen in Los Angeles, was taking a back seat to concerns for the woman’s welfare.
“It’s a pretty big drop,” Williams said.
The fact that she did not plunge from the bridge’s highest point -- 200 feet above the water -- probably helped her survive, Williams said.
In what played out like a scene from “The Fugitive,” the search for the woman began shortly after 2 a.m.
CHP officers were driving west on the bridge and saw a car spinning out of control on the other side.
The officers turned around and pulled up to the vehicle, which had been abandoned. Ahead of them, they saw three women walking in the bike lane and approached them. The women had jumped a short divider to get to the bike lane, Williams said.
As the officers moved in, one of the women, wearing a black dress, began climbing the guard rail and then plunged into the bay.
Hoping to track the woman, officers threw a dye pack into the bay. The dye showed officers where the woman landed and followed the current. She was seen drifting north under the bridge.
Authorities found an ID card floating in the dye-stained water, but not the woman.
Officers detained the two other women and launched a search for one who fled.
Aided by a helicopter, the CHP and U.S. Coast Guard searched the water until 9 a.m.
After suspending their search, the CHP received several calls from drivers who reported seeing a woman in a soaking wet dress standing on the side of the road, trying to flag down vehicles.
Finally, a dump-truck driver picked up the woman and took her to a “safe location” toward San Francisco, Williams said.
Later, the driver went to the CHP’s Oakland station and described the encounter with his unusual passenger.
The two other women were questioned and released. The women told officers that “they didn’t know [the other woman] well,” Williams said.
On Wednesday afternoon the woman was still missing, authorities said.
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