A man who had to be rescued from a perilously bending branch of a tall pine tree after parachuting from the Foresthill Bridge claims to be a veteran BASE jumper, authorities said Tuesday.
Rescuers early Tuesday freed Raymond Arrieta, 26, who became stuck in the tree below the Foresthill Bridge in Auburn. He was cited for being in the park after hours and participating in an unsafe activity, both misdemeanors.
The BASE jumper leaped from the bridge just before 9 p.m. Monday, but became caught in a Ponderosa pine on his way down. The jumper was stuck in the tree about 100 feet above ground.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Placer County sheriff's deputies and California State Parks crews figured how best to bring the jumper to safety.
They called upon a Pacific Gas and Electric boom truck to pluck the jumper from the tree about 2:15 a.m. Arrieta was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
The Foresthill Bridge is California's highest span and the nation's fourth highest at 730 feet. It's a popular leap for BASE jumpers, but because BASE jumping from the span is illegal, many make the leap at dusk or after nightfall.
(BASE comes from an acronym for building, antenna, span and earth fixed locations that jumpers launch from for a short sky dive without aircraft. Spans are bridges and earth refers to cliffs. Jumpers aim to do all four.)
Scott Liske, supervising state park ranger for the Auburn State Recreation Area, said that Arrieta is living at a parachuting center in Lodi but calls Puerto Rico his home.
BASE jumpers from the Foresthill Bridge typically free-fall about eight seconds before deploying their chute, Liske said. Although the bridge has seen numerous suicide leaps, no BASE jumpers have died, according to authorities.
Liske said Arrieta told him that he has 600 jumps under his belt from airplanes and 60 BASE jumps. Arrieta was evaluating his landing with about 100 feet to go and did not see the pine when he was snagged.
"As rescuers we were very concerned about how secure he was in the tree," Liske said. "The branch was about 3 inches in diameter and was bending toward the ground."
The PG&E boom truck had to come from Marysville, so Arrieta cooled his heels in his parachute harness until the cherry picker arrived.
About a year ago, in October, another BASE jumper took a leap off the Foresthill Bridge. He landed in jail after a Placer County sheriff's helicopter crew had to pluck him from a pine.