Roseville/Placer News

Placer sheriff cracks down on bridge ‘girder hangers’

The Foresthill Bridge, pictured  in July 2010, is the tallest bridge in California and spans 730 feet over the north fork of the American River near Auburn. Dozens of young people made their way to the bridge to illegally climb onto the narrow metal catwalk. Some of them scaled the walkway’s railing to walk tightrope-like on exposed girders, Placer County sheriff’s officials said, and some reportedly lowered themselves beneath the girders to hang by their hands.
The Foresthill Bridge, pictured in July 2010, is the tallest bridge in California and spans 730 feet over the north fork of the American River near Auburn. Dozens of young people made their way to the bridge to illegally climb onto the narrow metal catwalk. Some of them scaled the walkway’s railing to walk tightrope-like on exposed girders, Placer County sheriff’s officials said, and some reportedly lowered themselves beneath the girders to hang by their hands. Sacramento Bee file

The Foresthill Bridge in the Placer County foothills, long a thrill-seekers’ magnet, was invaded again this weekend – this time by what officials are calling “girder hangers.”

Attracted by boasts on Twitter, dozens of young people made their way to the bridge in the hills above Auburn to illegally climb onto the 730-foot-high span’s narrow metal catwalk. Some of them scaled the walkway’s railing to walk tightrope-like on exposed girders, Placer County sheriff’s officials said, and some reportedly lowered themselves beneath the girders to hang by their hands.

Sheriff’s deputies set up periodic patrols at the bridge on Foresthill Road, and say they cited 25 people on Sunday for trespassing onto the locked catwalk.

“We are trying to put a stop to this right now,” Placer sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin said. “Kids are actually hanging, their bodies over the canyon.”

Erwin said the department typically gets reports of people trespassing on the catwalk a few times a year. During the Presidents Day weekend, however, officials noticed a surge of tweets from young people, mainly from Sacramento, taking pictures of themselves on the narrow walkway typically used for bridge inspections, maintenance and repairs.

One trespasser tweeted a photo of herself and a friend posing at the site, writing: “If you go to the Foresthill Bridge and don’t take pictures, did you really even go?”

Another posted photos of the catwalk, gushing: “Forest Hill bridge was so rad.”

Placer officials put out a warning on Facebook on Tuesday, saying they are issuing citations.

“It is a misdemeanor to trespass on the county-owned bridge’s catwalk, and deputies are actively patrolling and citing violators,” Erwin wrote. “Ten people, mostly from the Sacramento area, were cited early Sunday, and 24 more were encountered there later Sunday.”

She added, “There is a zero percent chance of survival if someone falls to the American River canyon. The Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to stay on the walkways of the upper deck. The view is the same and it’s much safer.”

In one post, four of the cited trespassers snapped a picture showing off their summons to appear in court.

Erwin said hikers found the body of an 18-year-old from Orangevale in the canyon below the bridge Friday morning, but she said that death is believed to be a suicide, unrelated to the catwalk trespassing.

The bridge, the tallest in the state, has a long reputation for various types of thrill-seeking. Officials periodically crack down on bungee jumping from the span.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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