Williamson County officials crack down on would-be bridge climbers

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A strong warning came from Williamson County first responders Monday night after multiple people were found climbing the historic Natchez Trace Bridge.

The first climber was discovered Saturday afternoon after someone called 911.

According to Bob Galoppi with the Williamson County Rescue Squad, a 62-year-old man from Indiana climbed up the arch under the Natchez Trace Bridge.

The bridge is close to 150-feet at the top and the arches get progressively steeper as they join at the center.

According to the Assistant Chief, who is also the County Fire Marshal, the response required 25 fire fighters, five emergency vehicles including large fire trucks and a lot of specialized equipment.

Gallopi told News 2, the bridge was closed for more than 90 minutes while special operations crews repelled over the side to reach the trapped man. Another fire fighter, secured by ropes also reached the man by climbing the arch. Galoppi said the 62-year-old man was secured in a rope harness, then all three men were lowered to the ground, safely.

Galoppi said, “He was grateful we got him down, but not overly concerned that we used multiple resources in the county. Time, effort, taxpayer funding to get him off the bridge. He was lackadaisical and didn’t understand what the big deal was about.”

When asked to explain, the Assistant Chief said, “You are putting first responder lives in danger unnecessarily. It is no different than going through flood waters. We talk about turn around don’t drown. Well don’t climb the bridge.”

Sunday, Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies encountered two more bridge trespassers.

Body cam showed the duo trying to slide down. The arch grows steep as it connects to the ground, and one of the climbers slid on their backside, gaining speed, finally stopping harshly where the concrete meets the ground.

The deputy asked the person if they are injured. The person says ‘no’, and no rescue is warranted. According to sheriff’s officials, the two climbers are only given a warning.

Galoppi said, “Unfortunately we probably get more than we know about. Where people climb the archways. They don’t normally make it to the top or the hump. Once you climb the arch, the hump of the arch, it becomes difficult to get back down, because gravity takes over and you will slide, 30 to 50 feet. You could harm yourself or it could cause death.”

The Indiana man who caused the bridge to be shut down and dozens of rescue personnel to respond, is charged with criminal trespassing by federal park rangers.

Galoppi said, “When you put yourself in deliberate harm’s way, you make a poor choice. The consequences are not just for you, but they are for others. and that is why we are concerned about it.”

Galoppi told News 2 the Rescue Squad has been in contact with the U.S. Parks Department and the United States D.A.’s Office about the expense of the rescue operation.

Galoppi said it’s quite possible, the 62-year-old Indiana man could get a bill totaling thousands of dollars.

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