2 suicide saves in 2 days at Foresthill Bridge near Auburn

Part of railing removed to aid woman perched over canyon
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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A bridge near Auburn infamous for its suicidal plunges held out a ray of hope twice this past week to potential jumpers.

Two people at the bridge and threatening to jump walked away from the precipice of certain death into the north fork American River canyon 730 feet below.

And it happened two straight days.

The first call to the bridge came July 9, when a despondent woman was reportedly huddled about a quarter of the way across the Auburn-Foresthill bridge’s deck. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance for medical and psychiatric help about an hour after the report came in during the early afternoon.

On Tuesday, a second tense rescue operation involving the Placer County Sheriff’s Office closed the span to traffic during the late afternoon and into the evening after a woman climbed over the 6½-foot-high railing and hung on.

While the Sheriff’s Office hostage negotiation team was continuing to talk to the woman,  firefighters were able to unbolt a section of the railing to allow her to move more easily to the walkway.

“We attempted to build a rapport with her during the four hours she stood on the bridge and we talked to her,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said.

The woman eventually was assisted over to an ambulance for a trip to the hospital, a psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

While the number of people who have plunged off the bridge now stands at 87, following an Auburn Journal revision this spring of the earlier estimate of 80, countless more people have gone to the bridge and then decided to turn back — many aided in their decision by emergency personnel. The bridge opened in 1973. It’s California’s highest and the fourth highest in the nation. The last fatal jump off the bridge was in April and the man’s body was found in the river in late June.

Over the past dozen years, phones have been installed at the bridge for people to call a suicide prevention hotline.

The railing at the side of the bridge’s walkways has also been raised.

The prevention numbers to call are 888-886-5401 and 530-886-5401.