Sydney West got up early on the morning of Wednesday, September 30, 2020, and left the San Francisco home where she was staying with friends. The 19-year-old used a rideshare service to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, a place she went often to take pictures and exercise. At 6:45 am, she started making her way across the bridge in the direction of Crissy Field, but she never made it off the bridge. At some point during her walk, Sydney vanished without a trace.
Sydney — known as Syd to friends and family — had grown up in Pleasanton, California, but had moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when she was in high school. A 2019 graduate of Carrboro High School, she decided to take a gap year when she didn’t get into her first choice college. She spent her gap year traveling in Australia and spending time with her family. She seemed to struggle with a little bit of depression as she watched her friends start college but her mood brightened when she learned that she had been accepted into the University of California at Berkeley for the fall of 2020.
Syd had suffered a concussion during the summer of 2020, and she hadn’t fully recovered by the time she moved to California in August 2020. Her father, Jay West, later stated that dropping her off at Berkeley had been hard for both Syd and her parents. She experienced some anxiety about being so far away from her parents, sister, and dog, but was looking forward to going back to school.
Although Syd had initially been very excited about starting her freshman year, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that all of her classes were held online, with little in-person interaction. Feeling isolated and still suffering from the effects of the concussion, Syd made the difficult decision to withdraw from her classes and defer her enrollment for a year.
Syd moved out of her college dormitory but decided that she wanted to remain in California for a while, so she went to stay with some family friends who lived in the Bay area. She remained extremely close with her parents and younger sister in North Carolina and was in constant phone contact with them. She last spoke to her father on September 29th; they had an hour-long phone conversation and made plans to speak again the following day.
Jay knew something was wrong when he was unable to reach his daughter the following day. After repeated calls to her cell phone went unanswered, he used an app to try and locate her phone. It appeared that her phone had been turned off, however, and Jay was unable to determine its location. He called the friends Syd was staying with and learned that they hadn’t seen Syd at all that day. Concerned, he told his wife, Kimberly, that he couldn’t get a hold of their daughter and he was worried about her.
Syd’s parents went online and checked her bank account to see if they could glean any information from it, but it showed no recent activity. When there was still no word from Syd by the next morning, Jay and Kimberly knew that something was terribly wrong. They called police and reported their daughter missing.
Since Syd was a permanent resident of North Carolina, she had to be reported missing to police there. Officials in North Carolina then contacted police in San Francisco, where Syd had been living. Through their investigation, they learned that Syd had been dropped off by a rideshare driver near the Golden Gate Bridge Wednesday morning, but her trail appeared to end there.
The driver was interviewed extensively but wasn’t able to provide investigators with much information. He had simply dropped Syd off and then went on his way. If he had any observations about her mood or behavior that morning, they were not released to the public. Detectives did state that the driver had been cooperative in the investigation and was not considered a suspect in Syd’s disappearance.
There are numerous cameras on the Golden Gate Bridge and one of them captured Syd as she started to make her way across. Unfortunately, it was an extremely foggy morning and she soon disappeared from view. Much of the bridge was completely obscured by fog, making it impossible for investigators to determine what happened to Syd after she vanished into the mist.
When asked what he thought might have happened to his daughter, Jay stated, “The reality is, I’m her father, I saw the video on the bridge, and I don’t know.” There was no evidence indicating that she jumped off the bridge and nothing pointing towards an abduction. Syd had simply vanished without leaving any clues as to what had happened to her.
Sydney had spent most of her life in Pleasanton, California. She was a talented singer and songwriter who had showcased her musical prowess at many open mic nights. She went to Foothill High School in Pleasanton for her freshman and sophomore years; she was very athletic and played on the school’s volleyball team.
The move to North Carolina meant that Syd had to switch schools at the start of her junior year, but it didn’t seem to bother her too much. She was quickly accepted by classmates at Carrboro High School and became the co-captain of the volleyball team at her new school. In her personal statement on the NCAA sports website, Syd noted, “Volleyball has taught me to never underestimate my skills and the importance of being a leader…through sheer will and hard work, I can accomplish whatever goals I set.”
One of Syd’s goals had been to go to UC Berkeley, and she had been thrilled when she learned it was going to be a reality. Yet even though she had accomplished her college goal, Syd still struggled with some mental health issues. In a televised interview, her father stated, “She is a wonderful human being…she’s also a human being that struggled with anxiety and depression and it got a hold of her. He noted that she had been sad in their final conversation, but had told him that she loved him and said she would talk to him the next day. He had no idea it would be the last time he would speak to her.
It’s unclear what Syd’s intentions were when she started her trek across the Golden Gate Bridge that morning, but she would make the one-mile walk across it to exercise in Crissy Field. It’s very possible that was what she planned on doing that morning; it’s also possible that her depression had finally overtaken her and she intended to end her life. It is the complete lack of evidence that bothers her family.
Her mother, Kimberly, noted that there were dozens of other people on the bridge at the same time as Syd that morning. “There were people walking, running, biking, driving…the fact that all of our pleas to the public and all of the information out there but nobody has seen anything is just so baffling to us.”
When Syd arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge, she was wearing a pair of dark-colored leggings, a teal hooded sweatshirt, and a pair of Vans sneakers with palm trees on them. Her hair was in a bun and she was carrying a small backpack; it looked as if she were ready for an early-morning exercise session. Her backpack was later found on the bridge and turned over to police; her cell phone was never recovered.
All of Syd’s social media accounts went silent after September 30th. There was no further activity on her cell phone or her bank account, and she left most of her belongings, including all of her clothing and her laptop, at the home where she was staying. She didn’t leave any kind of note behind and there was nothing found in her belongings to suggest that she intended on harming herself.
Both investigators and Syd’s family made public appeals for information, but if anyone had seen Syd on the bridge that morning they didn’t come forward. Three weeks after she was seen, a vigil was held for Syd in Pleasanton’s Lions Wayside Park. Childhood friends were among those who gathered to show their support for Syd, all of them praying that she would be found.
Although the San Francisco Police Department received a few tips regarding Syd’s possible location, none of them panned out. A month after Syd was last seen, a spokesperson for the police department had little to say about the investigation, noting only that Sydney was still classified as a missing person and the investigation was ongoing.
Desperate to find their daughter, Jay and Kimberly announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Syd’s location or to the person responsible for her disappearance. Investigators received a few tips, but no substantial leads were developed and the reward money went unclaimed.
As of August 2022, Syd’s disappearance remains unsolved and investigators don’t know anything more than they did on the day she vanished. Due to the fact that she was known to be depressed, she is classified as an “at-risk” missing person. Her family remains committed to finding her and bringing her home; the reward for information is currently up to $25,000.
Sydney West was 19 years old when she went missing in 2020. She was passionate about animals, the environment, music, and volleyball and had been looking forward to attending her dream college until the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Although she was no longer in school at the time of her disappearance, she was planning to return to classes in the fall of 2021. Syd has dark blonde hair and blue eyes; she is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a light teal hooded sweatshirt, black leggings, and black Vans sneakers with palm trees on them. Although she usually wore contacts, she is believed to have been wearing her glasses when she disappeared. If you have any information about Sydney, please contact the San Francisco Police Department at 415–553–0123.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression and thinking about suicide, help is available. Dial 988 from anywhere in the United States to be connected with someone who can help! You can also call 1–800–273–8255 or visit www.988lifeline.org for more information.