August 30, 2011.
RYAN Smith died trying to spray the ultimate tag, a graffiti signature that would earn him credit among his mates.Last night, those mates ignored police warnings, risking their own lives to pay tribute and tag the same spot that Ryan was trying to reach when he fell 15m to his death on rocks at South Australia's Christies Creek.
Friends of the 17-year-old, whose body was discovered by a walker at 8am yesterday, said last night that art was "his everything".
As darkness fell, those friends began to scale the Southern Expressway bridge, including precarious ledges they believe Ryan was trying to reach when he died some time on Sunday.
They said the highest, hardest to reach and most dangerous tags earn graffiti artists the greatest honour among their peers.
He also was a talented artist, attracting plenty of compliments for the work he displayed on his Facebook page.
While police yesterday were trying to determine if the teen was alone when he fell, his friends paid tribute to the boy who was living in a halfway house.
"He was one of the best people around. He had the biggest heart," friend Phil, 19, said.
Jorden, 18, said Ryan's visit to the Southern Expressway bridge was a one-off thing and that it wasn't a favoured site to graffiti. They believed Ryan was at the bridge on his own. "He was family to us," Jorden said.
He fell at least 15m and on to rocks on a bike track between Brodie Rd and the Southern Expressway at Morphett Vale.
Police spent yesterday trying to piece together the puzzle of Ryan's death after they were alerted to his body in the creek by a passing walker about 8am. Inspector Stephen Howard said they were unsure if other graffiti artists had been with him when he fell.
Police appealed to anyone who was with him or who saw people on the bridge on Sunday to come forward.
Barriers more than 2m high on the side of the concrete Southern Expressway bridge would make it extremely difficult to climb over, leaving police to suggest the teenager climbed up the creek bank on to the bridge then shuffled about 5m along a narrow edge running at its side.
The boy's backpack was found nearby containing several spray cans of paint. There were at least a dozen tags on the bridge and other structures near the creek.
Insp Howard said: "It's not just about the graffiti, it's about public safety and people climbing on a bridge over a creek where there's a 15m drop.
"(The bridge is ) not a plaything, it's not part of some adventure playground. You climb it at your own peril and in this case the young man has slipped and died.
"It's a foolish mistake ... these structures are not for climbing, it's as simple as that. Whether it's for graffiti or adventure, you're risking your life and you shouldn't do it."
SES and police crews recovered Ryan's body shortly after 10am.
Attorney-General John Rau, who earlier this month announced tough new measures to combat graffiti vandalism including suspending driver's licences and increased fines, said the measures were aimed at discouraging the activity.
"Without commenting on today's tragic death, the new anti-graffiti measures can't stop individuals undertaking highly risky behaviour, but they do aim to discourage these activities as much as possible," Mr Rau said.
"I hope to get wide support for these measures in the Parliament.
"The death is obviously a great tragedy for the young man and his family. It would be inappropriate to comment further on an ongoing police investigation."
Mr Rau hopes the new measures are introduced to Parliament this year. The measures include the creation of new offences, further restricting the sale and supply of graffiti implements, and new penalties for offenders.
In addition to licence suspension or extension of L or P plates, Mr Rau said courts would be given other new options when sentencing an offender for graffiti offences.
The maximum penalties for graffiti vandalism will be doubled to $5000 or imprisonment for 12 months. A range of other penalties for graffiti-related offences will also be increased significantly.
Independent MP Bob Such said the death was tragic and sad.
"But to be blunt, I'm not surprised," he said. "I've been thinking it's only a matter of time that one of these young people gets killed on the railway tracks too," he said.
Taken from: News.com.au
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