Online donors come to aid of twin girls rescued from ocean after pickup went over the edge at Sunset Cliffs

The wreckage of a pickup is upside down in the water after going over the edge at Sunset Cliffs on June 13.
The wreckage of a pickup is upside down in the water after going over the edge at Sunset Cliffs on June 13 with a father and his two young children inside.
(Jim Grant)

Nearly $12,000 has been raised as of June 17 from 273 donors on a GoFundMe page for future unplanned doctors visits for twin 2-year-old girls who were rescued from the ocean off Sunset Cliffs the morning of June 13 after a pickup truck driven by their father, who reportedly was suicidal, went over the edge.

The man’s wife called the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department around 4:30 a.m. reporting that the father had taken off with the children with plans to drive over the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, authorities said. He contacted her with “numerous calls and texts ... clearly stating she may not see her kids again,” according to a statement on the GoFundMe page.

A sheriff’s dispatcher notified San Diego police and put out a description of the vehicle and family. After authorities tracked the pickup to the Sunset Cliffs area via cellphone signals, police Lt. Dave Bautista located it on Hill Street near Cornish Drive, according to police. As Bautista approached, the truck sped off and plunged over a 30-foot rocky sea bluff.

Moments later, 22-year SDPD veteran Jonathan Wiese, who also was responding to the emergency, arrived in the area.

Wiese, a K-9 officer, said his first thought was that no one survived the crash. Then he saw the motions of the man holding onto the two girls.

Wiese, the father of a 2-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, said his “dad instincts” kicked in. His first thought was to jump off the edge, but it was dark and the cliff side was rocky. Then he thought of a 100-foot-long canine leash used for SWAT missions. He stripped off his gun belt and vest, wrapped the leash around his chest and threw one end over the cliff. He gave the other end to arriving officers.

“I said, ‘Hey, hang on. I’m going.’”

Officers helped lower him about 30 feet onto rocks, where Wiese got into the water and swam to the family, his uniform and boots still on. The man was treading water with a girl in each arm. One girl was crying, holding onto the man’s neck; the other appeared to be “lifeless,” Wiese said.

Because of the report of the man’s suicidal thoughts, Wiese said he thought it best to rescue all three and not leave the man behind. Wiese remembered his water survival training from Marine Corps boot camp. He swam under the trio as he pushed them to shore, keeping them above water.

At the bottom of the cliff, he put the girl who appeared to be in worst shape in a canvas bag. Using the leash, officers hoisted the girl up the cliff’s edge. With the help of arriving San Diego Fire-Rescue Department personnel, they repeated the process to rescue the second girl.

San Diego police Officer Jonathan Wiese with his two children.
San Diego police Officer Jonathan Wiese with his two children.

Wiese stayed with the man, who “was banged up pretty good,” until a fire-rescue helicopter hoisted the man up.

The three were taken to hospitals and were expected to survive.

“That’s the best news you can have,” Wiese said. “All I care about is that those girls are going to live and have a second chance at life.”

The father was booked into county jail on suspicion of two counts each of attempted murder, kidnapping and child cruelty.

Wiese, who has been hailed as a hero for his actions in the case, similarly sprang into action in the minutes that followed the deadly synagogue shooting in Poway 14 months ago, according to police. Hearing a dispatch about the rampage at Chabad of Poway, which left a member of the congregation dead and three other people wounded, Wiese sped to the area, saw the suspect’s car near the synagogue, pulled it over and took the suspect into custody.


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