A base jumper, who took a moonlight leap off the Foresthill Bridge on Wednesday night, landed in jail after a Placer County Sheriff's helicopter crew had to pluck him from a pine tree.
Scott Liske, supervising ranger for Auburn State Recreation Area, said Nicholas Frey, 34, of Olympic Valley, jumped from the bridge 730 feet above the American River canyon. Frey intended to land near the east side of the north fork of the American River, but his parachute became caught in a gray pine.
Frey was hanging about 60 feet above a roadway, on the end of a branch that extended about 45 feet out from the trunk of the tree.
"It was not an easy rescue," Liske said.
After firefighters determined that they could not extend a ladder to that height in the rugged terrain, the Sheriff's Department's helicopter, piloted by Sgt. Van Bogardus, was summoned.
Deputy Ashley Smentek lowered rescue specialist Deputy Josh Shelton from the hovering helicopter. The plan was for Shelton to put a harness on Frey, but the rescue effort was complicated when the blowing parachute wrapped around Shelton.
"There were some tense moments," Liske said. "The pilot did an incredible job of keeping that helicopter hovering for about 20 minutes,"
Shelton was able to free himself from the parachute, hook Frey to the harness and cut him from the parachute. Frey and the deputy were then lowered to the ground, and neither was injured.
Liske took Frey to Placer County Jail in Auburn, where he was booked on suspicion of engaging in an unsafe activity, a misdemeanor violation of the State Parks code. Bail was set at $2,000.
Frey will have to appear in court, and Liske said he will ask that Frey be required to reimburse the Sheriff's Department for the cost of the helicopter rescue.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Mark Reed said payment to the department would be up to the court - the Sheriff's Department won't send a bill. He estimated the cost of that type of rescue at $2,000.
Liske stressed that jumping off the Foresthill Bridge is illegal. Jumpers at the site typically are people who are suicidal, but he said Frey is the second base jumper he has arrested there in last 30 days. Nights with full moons typically draw base jumpers to the bridge, he said.
This, however, was the first helicopter rescue at the site for someone who became caught in a tree, Liske said.
Photo courtesy Scott Liske: A portion of a parachute hangs from a tree branch from which a base jumper was rescued early Thursday morning after he became hung up in the gray pine after jumping the Foresthill Bridge.
KCRA: Man rescued from bridge - Oct. 13, 2011