Hung up Foresthill Bridge BASE jumper rescued from tree branch

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A Foresthill Bridge BASE jumper was rescued then arrested after a getting hung up Monday night on a tree branch near the end of his 730-foot plunge. A Pacific Gas & Electric boom truck was dispatched from Marysville to work in the darkness of the American River canyon to rescue 26-year-old Raymond Alexander Arrieta of Lodi. Arrieta hung by his skydiving apparatus 100 feet above the ground from about 8 p.m. until the boom truck operator could get him into the boom-truck bucket at 2 a.m., Auburn State Recreation Area Supervising State Park Ranger Scott Liske said Tuesday. During the time the BASE jumper was in the Ponderosa pine, a rescue team that included Cal Fire, Placer County Sheriff’s deputies and State Parks, had to formulate several backup plans, including the possibility that Arrieta could fall, Liske said. BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antenna, Spans and Earth. “He was in a very unknown situation,” Liske said. “At any time, the branch could break, he could panic and slip out of his harness, or he could pass out.” Conscious and speaking, Arrieta was initially transported by ambulance to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital to determine the extent of any injuries. After being discharged, Liske said that Arrieta was arrested on a Parks Code violation alleging taking part in an unsafe activity and booked into Placer County Jail in North Auburn. He was also cited for being in the Auburn State Recreation Area afterhours, Liske said. “He told me that everything went perfectly and he was looking for the best landing spot when he came too close to the tree and snagged his chute,” Liske said. BASE jumping – which involves parachuting off bridges, buildings and cliffs – is not allowed from the Foresthill Bridge without a permit. Permits, particularly for movie shoots, have been granted since the mid-1990s. The most famous jump involved a stunt for the film “xXx” starring Vin Diesel. A Corvette was catapulted off the bridge and a stunt actor BASE jumped off the falling vehicle. Liske said that the arrest for BASE jumping was the first at the bridge this year. In 2011, three people were caught parachuting off the span – the fourth highest in the United States and highest in the state. And, in an incident very similar to Monday’s, a 34-year-old Olympic Valley BASE jumper was rescued from a tree branch in September 2011. That branch, which loomed over the canyon, has since been cut down. Arrieta, who formerly lived in Puerto Rico, is alleged to have jumped from the south side of the bridge facing the American River confluence, Liske said. He would have landed on the eastern shoreline near Lake Clementine Trail. The PG&E bucket truck had to travel from Old Foresthill Road along the trail access road to get to a spot to position the boom below the branch. Because of darkness and the steep slope of the canyon, a helicopter was not deployed – although it could have been used after the sun came up, Liske said. But with Arrieta loudly moaning in pain from circulation problems and concerns about the branch breaking, the boom truck was called in, Liske said. Information on how the initial 9-1-1 call came in and who made it was not available Tuesday. Liske said at least two other BASE jumpers may have made jumps before Arrieta’s. “But we couldn’t find those people,” Liske said.