Thursday Mar 17 2011
Man asks directions, leaps to death off Foresthill Bridge
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
A 20-year-old man politely asked a flagman whether he could go onto the Foresthill Bridge and, given permission, leaped to his death Thursday afternoon when he reached the middle. The man was identified by the Placer County Coroner’s Office as a 20-year-old Citrus Heights resident. His name was not immediately being provided because family members still needed to be notified, sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin said Thursday. The man’s body was recovered from a patch of open ground about 700 feet below the bridge. An unofficial Auburn Journal count estimates he was the 58th person in the bridge’s 38-year history to die at the span. The bridge, which stands 730 feet above the North Fork of the American River, is the fourth highest in the U.S. and the highest in California. With the bridge now undergoing a $74.4 million seismic retrofit and repainting project, traffic is down most weekdays to one lane, with a flagman stationed at each end. But the public is allowed access to the north end while construction takes place on the other side, including raising the railing from 4 feet to 6½ feet. The man jumped to his death at about 3 p.m.Thursday. Marcus Baser, flagman at the east end of the bridge, said the man walked up to him after parking his car off the side of the road nearby and asked politely whether he could go onto the bridge. When told that construction was taking place on the south side and was off limits to the public, the man calmly walked over to the north-end walkway after asking whether that side was open, he said. “I was passing traffic through and looked back his way and he was gone,” Baser said Nearby the man’s Volkswagen Jetta had been left with a window half open and a set of keys, a backpack and a phone could be seen sitting on the passenger seat. “He was clean-cut, dressed nice and polite – ‘Yes sir, thank-you sir,’” Baser said. Construction was temporarily stopped as emergency personnel recovered the man’s body below the bridge.