Foresthill Bridge BASE leap caught by Placer sheriff’s copter

Run to avoid spotlight can't dodge eye in the sky
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A BASE jumper was arrested late Wednesday after an after-dark parachute leap off the Foresthill Bridge near Auburn was spotted by the Placer County Sheriff’s helicopter. Aaron Joseph McGovern was preparing to sail off the 730-foot-high span into the American River canyon, when the sheriff’s Falcon 30 crew spotted him as they passed the bridge on the lookout just before 8 p.m. for a suicidal woman reportedly somewhere on the deck. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin said Thursday that the crew trained the chopper’s high-powered search beam on McGovern’s jump and followed it down to a landing spot on a trail below. McGovern, a 39-year-old Olympic Valley resident, reportedly attempted to run down the trail in a futile attempt to dodge the spotlight. He ran about a third of a mile along the trail to the Old Auburn-Foresthill Road, where he at first attempted to get into his vehicle, she said. But McGovern then reversed course, ran up the trail again and was observed stashing his parachute gear in the bushes, Erwin said. McGovern eventually hunkered down in another bushy area and refused to come out over the next 15 minutes as the Falcon 30 crew made amplified requests for him to surrender, she said. The incident ended when McGovern emerged and was taken into custody on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and taking part in an illegal recreational activity in a state park. The leap off the bridge – the fourth highest in the United States – was the third time a BASE jumper has been caught either in the act or on the ground over the past three months. The others occurred in September and October. BASE stands for buildings, antennae, spans and earth – the usual jumping off points for low-altitude parachute leaps. In the most recent incident before Wednesday’s, 34-year-old Nicholas Frey of Olympic Valley was arrested after being rescued by the Falcon 30 crew after jumping and being suspended 30 feet in the air when his parachute snagged on a tree limb.