Hundreds work to keep people safe at Bridge Day 2013 - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Hundreds work to keep people safe at Bridge Day 2013

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FAYETTEVILLE -

One of the main concerns when so many visitors are cramming onto the bridge Saturday is safety.  The New River Gorge Bridge is only a little more than half a mile long, but Saturday likely more than 100,000 people will be flocking to it.

That's why more than 150 people in the National Park Service, the West Virginia State Police, the National Guard and the FBI are on duty for the weekend.

Just a few days prior, the government shut down left the Park Service with only 9 employees to deal with Bridge Day preparations.  They said without help from others, it would have been a nightmare.

"The state police stepped up, the national guard, the county sheriff did too. Just really good partnerships made that go forward smoothly," said New River Gorge National Park Chief Ranger Jeff West.

Friday crews were out all day checking the area and setting up their emergency and security hub.

In the morning hours, the FBI had their bombs dogs out searching the entire span of the bridge and members of the state police were crawling down inside the beams searching for anything suspicious.  But safety is always a concern way down at the bottom of the gorge for the hundreds of jumpers too.

"The aim is not only at making sure the jump is safe of course but once they land we like to clear them as quickly as possible to make sure the next one can jump safely," said West.

And with all those people tightly packed onto the bridge it's easy to get lost.  But West says it's always a good idea to have a game plan with your kids before you get there.

"If parents lose sight of their kids just go to either end of the bridge and let the law enforcement know and we will help them, well get them back for them," said West.

Saturday morning visitors are welcome to come starting at 9 a.m.  Every person and their belongings will be checked before entering.  Visitors are also reminded not to bring strollers, large purses, backpacks or folding chairs.