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1 Dead as 5.1 Quake Jolts Bay Area : Man, 19, Leaps to Death in Panic; Damage Minor

August 08, 1989|From Times Wire Services

SAN FRANCISCO — A sharp earthquake jolted the San Francisco Bay Area early today, shaking buildings for 10 seconds and apparently causing a 19-year-old man to leap to his death from a fifth-story apartment window.

The temblor, which occurred at 1:13 a.m., had a magnitude of 5.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. It was centered on the San Andreas Fault about 13 miles south of San Jose.

Residents from San Luis Obispo in the south to the Napa wine country in the north, a distance of about 250 miles, reported feeling the quake. Strong aftershocks still rolled through the region seven hours later.

In Los Gatos, a community of about 40,000 people near the epicenter, a 19-year-old man died after falling or leaping from the window of his fifth-floor bedroom, said police dispatcher Lisa Douglas.

Officials said the man, Matthew James Bignall, a resident of the area for only two months, may have been panicked by the strong jolt and tried to flee through a window of his apartment.

No other deaths or serious injuries were reported, and damage appeared to be light.

'Few Minor Things'

"We've had reports of only a few minor things, a few broken things," said Bill Brecheen, a dispatcher for the Los Gatos Police Department. "One hanging ceiling fell, and a number of alarms went off."

Goods spilled off some supermarket shelves, and a few windows were shattered.

"I felt a little rumble, and then all the windows started shaking real bad," said Chris Soliday, 21, a clerk at a 7-Eleven all-night market in Sunnyvale.

"Some stuff in the aisles fell down. There's broken glass, dented cans, some beer bottles broken," he said.

The California Office of Emergency Services in Sacramento said it has not received any reports of serious damage. "All the damage reported to us has been cracks in stucco buildings," said a spokesman.

By coincidence, about 500 state and federal officials--including Marilyn Quayle, the vice president's wife--were convening in the state capital today for a two-day conference on earthquake preparedness.

The office of Los Gatos City Manager Deborah Swartfager suffered a cracked window, said a spokeswoman who added: "(The quake) was a pretty healthy one, sort of rolling with a big jolt."

Window Broken Before

A quake of about the same strength in June, 1988, also cracked a window in Swartfager's office.

Today's initial quake caused high-rise office buildings in San Francisco's financial district to sway. Fire and police department switchboards were flooded with calls.

Dozens of people jammed the telephone lines to San Francisco all-night radio talk shows.

Half an hour after the first jolt, an aftershock that measured 4.2 rolled across the region, lighting up telephone switchboards a second time.

A second aftershock of nearly the same intensity was felt about 9 a.m., about the time thousands of San Francisco office employes were arriving at their high-rise buildings for work.

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