The search for a missing 15-year-old girl from Danville has turned into a recovery effort as authorities announced Wednesday afternoon that she is presumed to have died jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge Monday.
The search for Allison Bayliss, last seen at her high school Monday morning, drew thousands of strangers to Facebook pages and hundreds of volunteer searchers to the rugged foothills around the Golden Gate Bridge.
It appears she rode her purple mountain bike to a BART station nine miles away from her Danville home and took the 40-minute trip to the Embarcadero near Fisherman's Wharf.
When police first announced the search Monday night, they reported that they didn't suspect a crime, based on conversations with her parents, and announced that they were looking for a teen at-risk of harming herself.
The Diamondback bike, a helmet by its side, was found by Alliy's father around 4:45 a.m. Tuesday. Directions he found on her computer led him to the bike, which was locked to a bike rack in a parking lot about eight miles away from the Embarcadero, at Fort Point. Fort Point, a national historic site in the Marin Headlands, overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, a known suicide magnet that draws about 19 people annually to their deaths.
In fact, just last week San Francisco Bay Area-based speaker Kevin Hines, one of only about 30 people to have survived a suicide attempt from the bridge, visited Bayliss’ school, San Ramon Valley High, to tell his story and spread awareness that “suicide is never the solution to any problem.” As he spoke, many students were reduced to tears.
In April, a 16-year-old girl from Southern California made local headlines by miraculously surviving a jump from the bridge. She was rescued from the cold waters of San Francisco Bay by residents of Alamo and Walnut Creek, two communities bordering Danville.
In October 2008, after years of controversy, the Golden Gate Bridge board of directors finally agreed to erect a net barrier to help deter jumpers. It's going to cost $40 million and funding hasn't yet been identified.
“Now that our students are seeing a suicide crisis happening in front of them, some are beginning to realize that suicide prevention happens right now, not when it’s already too late,” said San Ramon Valley senior Amanda Nguyen, who wrote a column about Alliy for Danville Patch.
“This unfortunate situation has opened the eyes of many teenagers,” Nguyen wrote. “They are suddenly starting to realize how much they can relate to Alliy, in the sense that they have — at one point or another — just wanted to run away from it all.”
The sobering reality of Alliy's situation stands in stark contrast to the town's demographics as a wealthy suburb of 42,000 nestled 30 miles east of San Francisco. In addition to being the hometown of famous airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, it recently made headlines for its residents spending the most money among any city in California on clothing.
Now it’s attracting the media spotlight for how the community has been rallying around the Bayliss family.
Multiple Facebook pages supporting the search effort sprung up overnight, one of them attracting 11,000 members in 24 hours. It has since been shut down but others are taking its place. An estimated 100 people from Danville left behind their jobs and other obligations and spent Tuesday posting fliers and combing the trails, beaches and city streets looking for Allison.
Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins was somber about the news that Allison likely will not be found alive.
“This is a very sad outcome,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the Bayliss family at this time, and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts.”
By all accounts Alliy looks like typical Danville-raised teen: She attended elementary and middle school there; has three siblings and sported a fresh athletic look: long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, blue eyes and a swimmer's tan from her time on the school's swim team. Fliers seeking her safe returned showed photos of her smiling widely — her teeth recently freed of braces.
There are even videos of her skillfully playing popular classical tunes on the piano, such as the theme from the movie "The Titanic," posted on a YouTube channel.
It’s likely hundreds will attend a multi-denominational vigil planned for her and her family from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight at Danville Congregational Church.