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Heroism on the Coachella Ferris wheel: A lifeguard catches a jumper by the ankle

Published: 2011-04-21
Indio police spokesman Benjamin Guitron: “You read about other concerts, and some of the issues that they have, and we know we are very fortunate here."

Kendall Huberman and her friends wanted to take advantage of the sights from the Ferris wheel at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. They also had a deadline, as they wanted to catch rock act the Black Keys at 8:30 Friday night. So at the start of the hour, the group headed to the Ferris wheel line, were led to a gondola and began their ride.

And then, as Huberman and her friend Kyle Flanders tell it, things got surreal. As the Ferris wheel was beginning its ascent, a young woman suddenly made a dash for their carriage. In separate interviews, Huberman and Flanders described her as about 5-foot-1. She said nothing after jumping into the gondola. Flanders, however, recalled that she was making indecipherable noises.

“We had started moving, and she jumped in really fast," said Huberman, 20, of Manhattan Beach and a student at UCSB. “We were kind of annoyed that she decided to jump into our gondola, so we just decided to ignore her and enjoy the ride. Then literally, as soon as we got high enough to where anything you could see from a bird's-eye view..."

Huberman trailed off, as what happened next, she said, was something no one was expecting or could prepare for. “She stood up, lifted her arms and dove from the gondola head first," said Huberman.

Early Saturday, a rumor was spreading around the Coachella grounds that a young woman had attempted to jump off the Ferris wheel. There weren't too many details, though the on-site firefighters confirmed that it did happen, and confirmed that she was saved by someone on the ride with her.

After speaking with numerous health, security and law enforcement officials, it became clear that the story existed in numerous forms. Pop & Hiss posted what was known as of late Saturday afternoon and promised an update when or if more information was available. The very next day Huberman's father contacted The Times, and said his daughter was on the gondola with the woman who tried to jump. He passed along his daughter's contact information.

As for the person who saved the woman, that is believed to be Flanders, a 24-year-old swim instructor/lifeguard for a Spectrum Athletic Club.

He agreed to talk to Pop & Hiss Tuesday afternoon, but wanted to stress the following: “I love Coachella. I love the Ferris wheel. I am definitely going again next year. Everything was run great. It was 50 times better organized this year. There was a lot more space. I liked the placement of the Ferris wheel better. There were so many overall improvements.

“I'm really worried about the girl more than anything in the world," he continued. “I want to find her and I want to get in touch."

More than a few have emailed, taking credit for the rescue, and in an effort to avoid a hoax, Flanders was asked for verification that he was indeed on the Ferris wheel with the woman who attempted to jump. Flanders provided numerous pictures—all taken immediately after the incident on the gondola—as well as video of the same woman being assisted by medical staff. Due to privacy concerns and the unknown identity, condition or whereabouts of the woman, Pop & Hiss will not post either the photos or the video.

As to what, apparently, happened on the gondola on Friday night, this is how Flanders tells it:


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