California Highway Patrol, Coast Guard call off search for Indian American teen missing from Golden Gate Bridge

Ritu Jha-

The search for Shreyas Kelkar, a 16-year-old Indian American Sunnyvale high-schooler last seen on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on December 13, has been called off, even though the case is open, California Highway Patrol (CHP) said on Monday.

CHP officer Darrel Horner told indica that they do not have enough resources to continue the search and that it is the Coast Guard’s responsibility to search the ocean for missing persons.

“Our case remains open until we find certain leads,” Officer Horner said. He said the reason for the search entering its second week is that the ocean is big, and with currents and tides, it will always be difficult. “We do not have more information, but a ‘missing person case’ has been filed.”

The US Coast Guard, however, told indica that they too have stopped the search. “The Coast Guard is not searching for anyone, who may or may not have jumped off a bridge on December 13,” Lt. Sondra-Kay Kneen from the US Coast Guard media relations team told indica. “We do not have a record that someone jumped.”

She said the Coast Guard may have searched on December 13, but not any longer. “It’s six days and the search is suspended,” she said, adding “the search depends on if somebody has seen something. Was there a witness to this individual jumping or not.”

She said the search might resume only if any information or any new detail presents itself. Lt Kneen said the Coast Guard searches for an individual [on surface] but they do not do recoveries and so do not search for bodies beneath the water.

“If they get notification then we launch our boat and I believe they did [on December 13] but did not find anything that showed the individual in the water. So, we stopped our search.”

Shreyas’ father Ashish Kelkar told indica, “Volunteers are searching and the volunteers have made posters about him. We have talked to a bunch of experts and we have details what happened at that point,” he told indica. “The water current was going toward the west of the Pacific at that time of the day. We have some data based on that so, we are making an educated guess.”

He confirmed that he has not heard anything from the CHP or the Coast Guard. “The last we spoke was on December 13 and 14,” Kelkar said.

On December 14, CHP had told indica that the search for the boy is ongoing, but he has not been found yet. “The search started yesterday, after a splash was reported in the water. At present there is no safety net installed at the Golden Gate Bridge, it is being built,” the officer said.

Kelkar said that his son’s bicycle and helmet were found on Golden Gate Bridge and he was seen hiking on the bridge. It was around this time that someone heard a splash in the water and called 911.

“There is a strong suspicion that he may have jumped off the bridge but we are praying that we find him,” he said. “We have filed a missing complaint.” He was last seen wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt and black pants. A family friend said, “We are looking for people with specialized equipment like boats, sonar, planes, submersibles, diving/scuba gear to help. We appeal to people to reach out to us
408.475.1920 if they have any information on Shreyas.”

Shreyas is a senior at Homestead High School. “I have got his belongings and have gone through his backpack but I haven’t tried to open his cell phone yet,” Kelkar said. “Shreyas is fond of math and is interested in studying applied mathematics. He is the elder of my two sons.” Kelkar said Shreyas seemed to be quiet for the past three-four months “but we thought it was a teenage issue. But there was no other sign to think of, he was also done with his college applications.”

Kelkar’s apprehensions about his son’s probable intentions are not unfounded. Since it opened in 1937, more than 1,800 people have plunged to their deaths from the iconic bridge, the most from any bridge in the United States, according to bridge officials.

Over the years, families of victims and psychiatrists working with the non-profit Bridge Rail Foundation have advocated for lifesaving modifications to be made to the bridge.

In August 2022, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District approved an $824,000 project to construct a rescue training net at the Southern Marin Fire District facility in Mill Valley.

The safety net is scheduled to be completed in November 2023. In 2021, 223 people came to the bridge to try to hurt themselves, according to Dennis Mulligan, manager, Golden Gate Bridge. “Of those, 198 were stopped and 25 people jumped. In 2020, numbers were similar, with 213 coming to the bridge, 185 being stopped, and 28 who jumped.”

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