Wednesday May 04 2011
Man scales new Foresthill Bridge fencing to leap to his death
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Helcopter search locates suicide victim's body downstream
A man climbed over new, higher fencing on the Foresthill Bridge and leaped to his death Wednesday morning. The bridge is currently undergoing a $74.4 million seismic retrofit and repainting, which has left half of the bridge closed to the public. But the northern side, where the man jumped from, has remained open for people to walk across and take in the view from the highest span in California and fourth highest in the U.S. At least one construction worker at the bridge witnessed the man jump at about 10:42 a.m. from near the middle of the northern side, Supervising Ranger Scott Liske of the Auburn State Recreation Area said. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office identified the suicide victim as Kevin Cronk, 26, of Lake Oswego, Ore. The drop is 730 feet and an unofficial Auburn Journal count indicates Cronk was the 59th person in the bridge’s 38-year history to fatally plunge from the span. Cronk is the second person to jump from the Foresthill Bridge since Golden State Construction began the three-year project this year. A 20-year-old Citrus Heights man jumped off the north side in March. Since the March suicide, a two-foot-high wire-mesh fence has been erected on top of the four-foot-high railing that has been in place since the bridge was completed in 1973. As part of the bridge work, the railing height will be raised permanently to 6½ feet. But there has also been a push by Protect American River Canyons to raise the railing to 8 feet and curve it inward at the top to further prevent suicides and the constant problem of people dumping trash from the bridge into the American River canyon. The water, flowing swiftly along the North Fork of the American River below the bridge, took Wednesday’s suicide victim about three-quarters of a mile downstream, where the 2,900 cubic-feet-per-second current lodged it against shoreline rocks on the El Dorado County side. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was used to locate the body and the sheriff’s dive team climbed down rocky terrain between the Highway 49 bridge and the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge to locate and remove it. The helicopter crew spotted Cronk’s body about two hours after it disappeared into the current and the five-member dive team secured it to a hoist to be taken away by the air crew. Golden Gate workers told the Auburn Journal that they have been instructed by their employer not to discuss any jumping incidents.