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skyway bridge incidents
updated: 02.11.15
incidents occur on and around the skyway bridge, after 2000.
incidents before 2000 • of the paranormal
accidents • articles • what happened here?
links could be broken at any time.(our comments follow)
02.11.15: floridiots in the news...
Carlos Alberto Rivera-Pabon, 23
02.11.15,, Suspected tire thief arrested at Skyway Bridge.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrested a man at the Skyway Bridge this afternoon on suspicion of stealing tires from vehicles at a toll booth parking lot.
About 1:34 p.m., troopers received a call about a suspicious vehicle with a man inside and missing a tire at the bridge’s north toll plaza parking lot. Troopers made contact with Carlos Alberto Rivera-Pabon, 23, of Tampa, who said he had a flat tire on his 2008 Acura sedan.
Troopers saw two other vehicles in the same parking lot that were missing tires, one of which belonging to a toll booth employee in the same parking lot. The troopers also noticed that Rivera-Pabon was in possession of three additional tires, which they were able to link to the other vehicles.
Rivera-Pabon was placed under arrest for theft and felony violation of probation, FHP said.

any more info is welcome.
01.16.15: wrong way driver on the skyway.
Carolyn Pace, 80
01.17.15,, Elderly driver stopped going wrong way on Sunshine Skyway Bridge
ST. PETERSBURG -- An elderly woman traveling in the wrong direction on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was stopped before she could cause a crash Friday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Around 9 p.m, the FHP received a report of car heading north in the southbound lanes on I-275 around mile marker 5. Trooper Jonathan Donnelly was dispatched to the area and found a Cadillac CTS going 25 to 35 mph on the bridge.
Donnelly, traveling north in the northbound lanes and parallel to the wrong-way car, turned on his lights and sirens in an attempt to get the driver's attention. The driver finally responded and pulled off onto the median near mile marker 12.5.
When Donnelly reached the car, he determined that 80-year-old Carolyn Pace of Ocala was apparently suffering from a medical condition. Pace was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg. (she made it over 7 miles, from before the southern toll plaza and over the hump. how many vehicles did she have to negotiate without incident?)

01.17.15,, Troopers: Wrong-way Skyway driver, 80, had medical issue
An 80-year-old woman with an apparent medical issue was stopped while driving the wrong way Friday night on the Sunshine Skyway bridge, troopers said.
The Florida Highway Patrol said it was notified of the car going north in the southbound lanes on Interstate 275 in Manatee County, south of the bridge, about 9 p.m.
A trooper who was dispatched to the area located the 2007 Cadillac CTS about four miles later as the car was crossing the Skyway, the highway patrol said. Her speed varied from 25 to 35 mph.
The trooper, heading north in the northbound lanes, had his lights and siren activated as travelled parallel to the Cadillac, attempting to get the woman’s attention. The trooper eventually got her attention, and she pulled onto the median shoulder about 7 miles later nearing Pinellas County.
The trooper made contact with the woman, identified as Carolyn Y Pace, of Ocala. It appeared she was suffering from a medical condition, according to a highway patrol report.
Troopers safely removed the Cadillac and the woman from the bridge, taking her to a north rest area off I-275, where she was evaluated and transported to St Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg for treatment.
There were no injuries. No charges were filed.
The Skyway is a toll bridge connecting Pinellas and Manatee counties across Tampa Bay.

any more info is welcome.
01.12.15: Man rescued from water near Sunshine Skyway.
thank you, falling fisherman news reporter:
01.12.15, John Doe, St. Petersburg, (9:49pm), All typical units dispatched to grid 723S, ECSR, E8, R8, D10, PD4, USCG, FFWC, 320, M27, TFD (acronyms)

any more info is welcome.
01.12.15,, Bradenton, Florida – A fisherman fell off the pier near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Monday night and was rescued, according to the Coast Guard.
"People around there threw stuff in the water to keep him afloat," a spokesperson said. The man was taken aboard a Coast Guard boat and returned to the dock. He was uninjured.
Units from Pinellas and Manatee counties responded to the call, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and marine units from Eckerd College.
The incident happened on the northbound pier on the Skyway's south side.

any more info is welcome.
01.08.15: floridiot throws his daughter off the dick misener bridge leading to the skyway.
John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr., 25, murders Phoebe Jonchuck, 5.
12.27.13: boat incident, 7:00pm
thank you, boating news reporter:
12.29.13, natalie, Pinellas park, fl., (12.27.13, 7:00pm), I don't know if anyone jumped, but this was my first time driving across the skyway bridge. As I approached the top, there was a fire truck and two emergency vehicles parked. There was not a car accident or any other cars parked. Two officers were standing on the side of the bridge, looking down into the water as I passed. I am not sure what happened, just wanted to know if someone jumped. (thanks for the report. seems there was a boating mishap down below and what you saw were audience members with a balcony view.)

any more info is welcome.
12.27.13,, Three men rescued after jumping from burning boat near Sunshine Skyway Bridge
By Weston Phippen, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Three men were rescued from the water after their boat caught fire near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Friday night.
Capt. Sean Riley, 50, said he and his crew of two took a job to deliver a 36-foot Gulfstar Trawler boat from Tampa to Port Charlotte. They planned to be there by this afternoon, but just west of the Skyway the boat's engine lost power.
Riley lifted the engine compartment and said flames shot back at him. He tried to put them out with the extinguisher, but it was no use. At 6:52 p.m., a crew member called 911. Soon after, everyone on the boat jumped overboard clutching their life jackets.
"We just huddled up and waited," Riley said.
The three men linked arms as 5-foot waves splashed across their faces. At first Riley worried about the boat and the fire, but after a while his thoughts turned to hypothermia and sharks.
"By the grace of God, we're here," he said.
St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue found the ship 28 minutes after they received the call. Rescuers transferred the men onto a U.S. Coast Guard ship, which brought them into O'Neill's Marina.
St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Capt. Rob Nugent said firefighters extinguished the flames, but the boat sank in 25 feet of water.
None of the men on the ship was seriously injured, Nugent said.
Riley has worked on boats since he was 18, he said. He's suffered through tragedy before and only a few years ago he lost a close friend in the Caribbean Sea.
"This is what I do," he said. "I've done it all my life and I'll keep on doing it."


09.20.13: possible boat incident, 8:23pm
thank you, boating news reporters:
09.20.13, Bob of Skyway Lane, (8:23pm), Pinellas County dispatched St Pete Station 11, fire Boat 11, Eckert College SAR, the Coast Guard, Sunstar the district chief and the Rescue Lieutenant from downtown to grid 723S. This is the standard dispatch for a jumper (as it appears on Map Location: GRID 723S - Type of Incident: MEDICAL - Apparatus Involved: DV11, M11, FB11, R11, D5, LR1, ECSR, USCG, FFWC, 345BA, E11. here's a key.)

09.21.13, Roni, bradenton, fl., saw the emergency vehicle on top of bridge last night southbound lane about 8:45. No other seen

09.21.13, Lisa S., South Georgia, (09.20.13, 8:23pm), I was listening to Pinellas Public Service on when this call came in. It was not a jumper. It was a boat in distress under/near the bridge that called for help. It had hit a sandbar and was taking on water.

any more info is welcome.
03.16.13: off duty st. pete. police officer shot at in drive-by on skyway.
03.16.13,, An off duty St. Petersburg Police officer driving home around 4:30 a.m. Saturday was shot at in a drive-by shooting on the Skyway Bridge by the south side fishing pier ramp.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said the officer, whose name is not being released at this time, was still in uniform and wearing a windbreaker with "Police" clearly noticeable on his sleeves at the time of the shooting.
According to the sheriff's office report, the officer said an older model blue Honda pulled up beside him and fired a single shot. The officer reported only hearing one shot followed by his driver side window being shattered.
The officer, according to authorities, was able to radio dispatch.
Responding units searched the area, but the suspect's vehicle was not located. The officer was treated by EMS, and he sustained minor cuts to his face due to the shattering of the glass.
The investigation is ongoing at the time.
01.01.13: car thief escapes after chase on skyway bridge.
01.02.13,, MANATEE COUNTY - A suspect in a stolen car led deputies on a high-speed chase through Manatee County onto the Skyway Bridge on Tuesday night. The car, stolen out of Sarasota County, was spotted driving east on 26th Avenue East from 9th Street. Deputies attempted a traffic stop at 2500 15th Street East but the suspect vehicle accelerated and deputies pursued. The chase went through Bradenton, Palmetto and onto the Skyway Bridge. The pursuit was cancelled on the Skyway Bridge after the suspect vehicle reached speeds over 100 mph. (hard to imagine a scenario where one could escape by driving over the bridge at any speed. "well, he's on the bridge, nothing we can do now. damn, too bad we don't have some sort of magic flying machine so we could follow that car.") comments follow article:
- Melissa M., Valrico, Florida, now why the hell couldn't they have had LE on the North, St Pete end of the bridge waiting for this person? I mean, I'm no Einstein but that seems like a pretty logical solution. Spike strips, road block...somethin'. Geez.
- Patrick McC., I'm pretty sure they don't do "pursuits" up there. Too "dangerous", let the bad guys run so no one gets hurt. And they do because they know the cops won't chase them.
- George J. H., I think his point is, you call St. Pete and tell them to stop the skyway traffic at the other end. You can`t get off the bridge if there are cop cars blocking the road.
- Gary J., The Sheriff's helicopter must have been busy circling the beach looking for pot smokers instead of chasing car thieves!
- Rick B., North Port, Florida, Somebody dropped the ball!
- Gary P., ever hear of RADIOS?
01.04.13, Richard, Bradenton, The reason Manatee called off the pursuit is because St Pete PD and Pinellas county refused to assist with stop sticks. No point of chasing someone at 100mph speeds if you can't slow him down, then some innocent bystander gets killed in an accident. (that would excuse manatee pd, but not sppd. the fact this clown was blazing across the bridge should be reason enough to at least utilize any of the helicopters that are at the ready for situations like this. maybe Gary J. called it right. perhaps the manatee pd should have called the local news instead. bet they'd be willing to fly their copters over that car.)
08.05.12: boating incident
thank you, boating news reporters:
08.05.12, tom, bradenton, fl., (08.05.12, 1:15pm), saw police activity on top of the skyway with a few ambulances. Not sure if a jumper or medical emergency did not notice a vehicle.

08.05.12, anon, (08.05.12, 1:30pm), drove on skyway 1:30pm coast guard boats around bridge. firefighters looking below at water. many ambulances

08.05.12,  zolter, facebook, Current activity on skyway related to a water rescue. Not related to a jumper. Capsized canoe/kayak. People holding onto bridge pilings. (thanks for the clarification.)

any more info is welcome.
08.05.12, Hillsborough Sheriff, CONTACT MESSAGE - NO CONTACT MADE, 1 SKYWAY BG, 1323, 1415 0h52m
08.05.12,, Suicide dispatched 11:10 AM arrived 11:10 AM PINELLAS SUNSHINE SKYWAY [TOP OF SB SIDE] CONTACT FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE FOR MORE INFORMATION (we were curious why the florida fish and wildlife became the skyway bridge suicide go-to agency.)
11.13.11: body found near skyway.
Bang Quoc Luong, 35
thank you, incident news reporter:
11.13.11, shepdog of skyway lane, st pete, fl., (11.13.11, 1:00pm), pinallas county dispatched FB11, ECSR and FFWC an engine and the district cheif from downtown to grid 723S. This is the standard dispatch for a jumper.

any more info is welcome.
11.15.11,, Missing St. Petersburg man found dead off Anna Maria coast
By Marissa Lang, Times Staff Writer
ANNA MARIA — A missing 35-year-old man with schizophrenia was found dead in the water near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over the weekend.
Bang Quoc Luong, 35, of St. Petersburg was discovered by boaters off the coast of Anna Maria Island, near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, on Saturday.
He had been missing from his 58th Avenue N home since Nov. 7, when Pinellas County deputies said he walked away from his home.
Luong, who suffers from schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations, had a history of wandering off, family members said, but he usually came home. When family members failed to find him at all the places he usually visits, they grew concerned, deputies said.
Luong was not on his medications at the time of his disappearance, officials said.
Manatee County deputies said there is no sign of foul play in Luong's death.
Because Luong's body was in advanced stages of decomposition, it is likely he had been in the water for days before the sailors discovered him, said Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow. The boaters pulled him from the water and took him to Kingfish boat ramp in Holmes Beach, where they were met by authorities.
It was not clear how Luong ended up as far south as Manatee County, officials said. No cause of death was immediately available. An autopsy is being performed.
04.24.11: body found near skyway.
Kyung Yang, 67
04.25.11,, St. Petersburg, Florida - The search has ended near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge after a witness on the fishing pier last night, heard cries for help.
Rescuers found a man's body around noon.
A boat from Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg and a helicopter from Coast Guard Station Clearwater searched the water near the bridge.
Marine units from the Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee Sheriff's Offices are also assisted.
A woman on the fishing pier heard a man's voice screaming for help and grew fainter as time went by.
Investigators do not believe the man jumped from the bridge and are trying to determine how he got into the water.

04.27.11,, Detectives identify body found in bay on Monday
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives have identified a body found in Tampa Bay on Monday.
Kyung Yang, 67, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was found floating in the bay shortly after 10 a.m. Monday by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office marine unit, according to a media release.
According to the release:
Yang was found floating about a mile east of the Skyway Bridge, just south of the main shipping channel. His was turned over to the Coast Guard and taken to O'Neill's Marine. There does not appear to be any obvious signs of trauma. The body has been turned over to the Medical Examiner's Office.
Anyone with any information about Yang is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 247-8200 or anyone with any information regarding the identity of the victim and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at or text "CSTB plus your tip" to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637).
04.25.11, Hillsborough Sheriff,, DECEASED PERSON, SKYWAY BG, 1008, 1409, 4h01m
09.17.09: skyway bomb threat, Sunshine Skyway Bridge reopens after bomb threat,
Charisse Van Horn, Tampa Crime Examiner
September 18, 2009 - A bomb scare shut down the Sunshine Skyway Bridge for approximately 2 hours late Thursday evening, September 17, 2009. At approximately 10:30 p.m., a truck driver called the Manatee Sheriff’s Office to report a conversation that he had with a man over his CB radio.
According to the caller, the man he was speaking with stated a bomb was located on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and that it was set to detonate at 11:15 p.m. Due to the threat, the bridge was shut down in both directions and authorities searched diligently for 2 hours. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Coast Guard, and Florida Highway Patrol conducted the search.
After it was determined that it was a false alarm and that no bomb was present in the vicinity, the bridge was reopened at 12:30 a.m., early Friday morning.
10.01.08: man slips on sardines, falls into tampa bay
Richard Allen Khoory, 47, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 3:23 p.m.
ST. PETERSBURG | A 47-year-old Mulberry man who fell from the south fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and into Tampa Bay Wednesday morning was not injured, according to the St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue Marine Unit.
Rescuers said Richard Allen Khoory slipped on sardines he was using for bait while fishing on the pier and fell in.
The Coast Guard scooped Khoory out of the water and took him to shore, where Manatee County paramedics examined him and found him not injured. (when sardines attack! not an incident of staggering proportions, just somewhat humorous. this isn't really newsworthy, yet gets reported, while actual jumper news get ignored. we are glad mr. khoory was fine after the coasties used their people scooper on him.)
12.14.07: skyway gun suicide after family murders.
Oliver Thomas Bernsdorff
man kills four and then himself at the skyway
04.01.08: twisted letter plots family's murders.
10.19.05: motorist drives to the skyway with a body lodged in his windshield.
Ralph Parker, 93
The driver is 93 years old, which raises the question: Is there a better way to decide who is fit to drive?
ST. PETERSBURG - Ralph Parker had shown signs of dementia before, but his condition worsened dramatically over the past week. Argumentative one minute, calm the next.
Alarmed, Parker's son left Idaho on Wednesday to get his 93-year-old father in a safe place, police said.
Before he could get here, his dad backed his gold Chevrolet Malibu out of the driveway and went for a drive.
It ended horribly. Parker hit a man crossing 34th Street S, severing the man's right leg, then drove 3 miles with the body stuck in the windshield.
When police asked Parker what happened, he said the body seemed to drop from the sky.
Parker thought it was December and that he was headed home to Pinellas Park, not south toward the Sunshine Skyway bridge, police said.
The case is an extreme example of a complicated and enduring issue in Florida and everywhere: When is someone too old to drive? Experts say there is no reliable test or quick answer.
Unless something changes, they say, the problem will only get worse.
Julia Zumpf was driving south on 34th Street about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday when she saw the gold Malibu unsteady in the road.
Drunken driver, she thought.
Then Zumpf, 44, saw a pedestrian step off the center median and head across the three-lane road.
"He didn't even walk straight across, he walked at a 45-degree angle toward the cars," Zumpf. "It reminded me of some cocky kid who walks in front of you."
The driver of the Malibu slammed on his brakes, Zumpf said.
She thought the driver missed him but suddenly she heard a crash and saw a leg flying in front of her blue Buick LeSabre.
"It went at least one story in the air," she said.
His shoe then popped off before the limb came to a rest on a strip of grass west of the street, in front of Howard Johnson's.
The driver kept going, as if not realizing what happened, Zumpf said. She drove several blocks, trying to locate the body, thinking it rolled off the car, and called 911.
"I thought it was just a hit-and-run," she said.
The body was still on the Malibu. The head and shoulders were punched through the windshield, the torso slung backward over the hood.
Three miles later, the car approached the Sunshine Skyway toll bridge. As Parker decelerated, the body slumped entirely inside, the man's face pushed up against the dash.
The macabre scene looked like a Halloween prank to the toll taker. Then she saw the blood.
Police had not released the name of the victim as of late Thursday.
He was 52 and lived at the Crystal Inn across the street from the scene of the accident. The man, often seen begging for money on 54th Avenue S, was going to McDonald's for something to eat, police said.
Residents at the hotel said his first name was Rudy. They said he was a hard drinker, but a decent man with long ties to St. Petersburg.
* * *
The fractured windshield obscuring his view, and blood streaming down the console, Parker told police he did not realize what happened until he reached the tollbooth.
Even then, he thought a body dropped from above, perhaps a pedestrian overpass, said St. Petersburg police Officer Michael Jockers.
"He may have somewhere in his mind have realized it was a crash, but immediately forgot about it," Jockers said.
Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant in the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, said it was unlikely the state would file charges.
No final decision will be made until the police investigation is completed.
To charge Parker with leaving the scene of a crash, prosecutors would have to prove he knew or should have known there was an accident. Additionally, he would have to be mentally competent to stand trial. Parker did not appear to know what happened, where he was or why he was there when he spoke with police officers, Bartlett said.
Jockers took Parker's driver's license. Short of having the state take it away forever, Parker will have to take a test to show he is still competent behind the wheel.
Parker hasn't been cited for any serious driving incidents during the past seven years, according to state records. His history is clean except for an expired tag. He last renewed his license in 2003, at the age of 91. It was set to expire in 2010.
A spokesman for the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said the agency would conduct its own inquiry into whether Parker should have had a license.
"We will investigate this vigorously to see how this could have been prevented, if at all," said spokesman Frank Penela.
* * *
In recent years, experts have sounded warnings about the risks of elderly drivers and the need for more comprehensive screenings. A state report released last year said Florida was facing a "critical situation with its aging population: the mature at-risk driver."
The issue has gotten more attention because older drivers are living longer, buoyed by better medical treatment.
Last year, nearly 270,000 people age 85 or older were licensed to drive in Florida. Of those, at least 20 percent are considered "dementia drivers," with a mild to moderate condition, according to a 2004 state report.
Yet Florida, like many states, has no comprehensive system for evaluating whether older residents should be on the road.
The only age-related requirement is that seniors age 80 or older must pass a vision test when renewing their license, generally every six years.
That went into effect Jan. 1, 2004, two months after Parker last renewed his license.
But vision tests do not reveal other factors that affect driving, such as Alzheimer's disease, side effects from medication and chronic health problems.
While Florida and other states say they would welcome more comprehensive screening, no reliable test exists.
"There's no foolproof way to predict someone's ability to drive safely," said Dennis McCarthy, co-director for the National Older Driver Research and Training Center at the University of Florida.
"Many seniors can and do drive well," said Susan Samson of the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas.
Experts generally agree about the need for a road driving test. But even that is a snapshot in time that might not indicate whether a driver will forget to take his medication or lose mental alertness.
Additionally, more comprehensive state testing would be expensive and time-consuming.
"If you've lived in Florida for a long time, you know we revolt when the lines at the DMV get too long," Samson said.
State driver license examiners are trained to look for signs of mental or physical impairment and can request the driver to take additional tests.
But mostly, the state relies on doctors, residents, family and neighbors to report potentially unsafe drivers.
In those cases, the state conducts its own examination and a medical board determines whether to pull a license.
Doctors can be crucial in determining a person's ability to drive. In Florida, reporting is voluntary. Other states require it. California, for example, demands that medical professionals report all patients who have disorders that can cause "lapses of consciousness," including Alzheimer's disease. A physician who fails to report a required condition can be held liable for damages.
Pulling someone's license is serious business, especially for the elderly, experts say.
Many older residents need a car to get groceries, fill prescriptions, continue social lives. Some drive when they shouldn't because they feel they have no choice - a lack of public transportation, for example.
The loss of a driver's license can lead to a downward spiral, as people stop eating, taking their medications and become isolated.
Giving up a license also comes with a psychological cost.
"Losing your ability to drive is one of the toughest things," McCarthy said. "It tells us we're not healthy, we're not young, we're not capable."
Additionally, McCarthy points out that situations like Parker's don't happen often.
Older drivers are involved in far fewer accidents than other drivers, such as teens.
"There's a tendency to sensationalize these types of incidents," he said. "Although this one sounds very tragic, they are very few and far between."
* * *
Parker was taken to Bayfront Medical Center for evaluation. He suffered only minor scrapes from the accident, but his dementia was cause for concern, Jockers said.
"He can't even remember the name of the nurse that's been taking care of him all day," Jockers said.
Parker's son, 66-year-old R. Thomas Parker Jr., spoke with police investigators on Thursday, relaying his father's recent bouts of dementia.
The son could not be reached Thursday, and Jockers said he wished to be left alone. A daughter, who lives in Pennsylvania, declined to comment when reached by the St. Petersburg Times.
Their father is a longtime resident of the Mainlands of Tamarac, a 55 and older community off U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park. Neighbors said Parker and his wife, Hazel, moved there in the late 1970s and were active members of the community, attending dances and bingo. When his wife died in June 1998, Parker withdrew. About the only time people saw him was when he would drive by.
It seemed his one pleasure.
"That was the one thing he had," said Jockers, "to get in his car and just drive for the sheer enjoyment of driving."
John Logan, who perhaps knew Parker best, said about six weeks ago he noticed newspapers piling up in Parker's driveway. He feared the worst but phoned his neighbor. To his relief, Parker answered.
"Oh, the newspapers. Yeah, I'll have to get them," Parker told Logan, the last conversation between the two men.
"He kind of sloughed it off and said, "I've been doing other things.' "
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
When Ralph Parker, 93, struck a man in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, part of the body went through the windshield and stuck there for 3 miles. Above, Mike Jockers, a St. Petersburg police traffic homicide investigator, describes the crash in a news conference Thursday.
11.17.04: bus passengers prevent a skyway disaster when driver dies.
Thomas Grove, 61
11.18.04, Passengers stop bus from falling off bridge, Driver dies from possible heart attack
Thursday, November 18, 2004 Posted: 8:28 AM EST (1328 GMT) 
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) -- Passengers stopped a charter bus from plunging nearly 200 feet off a bridge after the driver collapsed, apparently from a heart attack.
The bus was near the top of the Sunshine Skyway bridge Wednesday afternoon when Thomas Grove, 61, fell out of his seat, passengers and authorities said.
It slammed into the 3-foot concrete wall, which blocks vehicles from tumbling into Tampa Bay. Three of the five passengers jumped out of their seats and ran toward the front.
"Grab the wheel!" 70-year-old Kenneth McAllister recalled shouting to his wife, Mary, and another woman.
The women held the steering wheel until McAllister could slide into the driver's seat. He struggled to keep the bus in its lane and hit the brake. It stopped just before the highest part of the bridge.
The passengers -- all unharmed -- called 911 and Amtrak, which uses the bus to shuttle passengers from Fort Myers to Tampa. They spent another 10 minutes in the bus because they didn't know how to open the door.
Two nurses driving by stopped to help, performing CPR on the driver. Grove, of Pinellas Park, died within hours at a hospital. Early reports suggested he may have had a heart attack, authorities said.
"It happened so fast," McAllister, of Bradenton, said from his cell phone aboard an Amtrak train to New York City late Wednesday. "We all felt so lucky to be alive."

11.18.04, St. Petersburg Times, Bus riders step up to avert a Skyway disaster. When the driver loses consciousness near the top of the bridge, passengers struggle to stop the bus. By JAMIE THOMPSON, Published November 18, 2004
The charter bus was near the top of the Sunshine Skyway bridge Wednesday afternoon when it suddenly veered to the right and slammed into the 3-foot concrete wall.
The 61-year-old driver toppled out of his seat and collapsed by the bus doors.
As the bus swerved 197 feet above Tampa Bay, three of the five passengers jumped out of their seats and ran toward the front, fearing they all might pitch over the side of the bridge.
"Grab the wheel!" 70-year-old Kenneth McAllister shouted to his wife and another woman.
The women lurched toward the wheel and held it until McAllister could slide into the driver's seat.
He fought to keep the large bus in its lane as cars whizzed past. His foot slammed the brake, bringing the bus to a stop. It was about 3:55 p.m.
Breathless, shaking, the five passengers stared at each other, unable to speak. The bus driver lay limp by the door.
"It happened so fast," McAllister said from his cell phone aboard an Amtrak train to New York City late Wednesday. "We all felt so lucky to be alive."
None of the passengers was injured, but the driver, Thomas Grove of Pinellas Park, died within hours at Bayfront Medical Center, said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Larry Coggins. Initial reports suggested Grove may have had a heart attack, authorities said.
The bus is owned by Martz First Class Coach in St. Petersburg but operates for Amtrak, shuttling passengers from Fort Myers to Tampa.
The drama Wednesday began shortly before 4 p.m. as five passengers sat quietly on the bus, hoping to catch a train to New York City.
Three passengers slept, McAllister said, while he and his wife, Mary, talked quietly and looked out the window at the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The Bradenton retirees were heading to see their son and grandchildren in New York.
McAllister first noticed something was wrong as the bus traveled toward the top in the northbound lane. He felt it veer and then heard the bus hit the concrete wall.
His wife, sitting in the aisle seat, quickly ran toward the front, as did another passenger, and McAllister followed, shouting instructions.
"The bus driver's head was down by the door, and we thought maybe he fell asleep and hit his head," Mary McAllister said.
All her husband could think about was grabbing the wheel and finding the brakes, which he finally did.
He slammed them all the way to the floor, and the bus stopped just before the highest part of the Skyway. It took about 20 seconds to stop it, he said.
As the wind whipped the bus, McAllister wasn't sure what to do next. No one knew how to open the doors. And they knew the driver needed help immediately.
With his foot pressed to the brake, McAllister waved to passing cars, trying to get them to stop. Finally, two nurses pulled over, but neither knew how to open the bus doors.
Passengers called 911 and McAllister dialed Amtrak.
"I'm driving one of your buses, I'm on the top of the Skyway, and I don't work for you," McAllister told them. "You better get someone up here, fast!"
After about 10 minutes, the passengers were able to open the doors, and the nurses began performing CPR on the driver.
The passengers stood together in the wind, worrying about the driver, talking about how lucky they were.
"It was very scary, but I think in a time like that, my husband realized he had to do something," Mary McAllister said. "We were all in really big trouble."
To her, it came as no surprise that her husband, a retired IRS agent, acted so swiftly. He's always reading safety material on buses, planes or trains, and acts with a calm head, she said.
Bob Dasch, Martz safety director, said bus driver Grove was an experienced employee who drove buses up north, retired to Florida and then wanted to continue driving.
"He was fantastic with people," Dasch said. "He was an excellent driver and physically fit."
Grove will be missed, said Dasch, who was grateful that none of the passengers were injured.
"They did a wonderful job," he said, "everything they could."
Amtrak sent a station wagon to take the five passengers - including a retired couple from New Jersey and a South Carolina attorney - to the station so they wouldn't miss their train. They squeezed into the wagon with their luggage and talked about the ordeal on the way to the train station.
"It's amazing how all five of us stuck together and we all became sort of like good friends in a very short time," Kenneth McAllister said. "Everybody was thanking everybody, saying "Man, you did a great job.' It was a good feeling."
By nightfall, McAllister and the other passengers were gliding north on their train.
They hoped the rest of their journey would be uneventful.
"That's why I decided to travel this way," he said, chuckling. "I thought it would be safer than flying."
- Times researchers Carolyn Edds and Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
07.01.02: "suspicious package" thrown off skyway?
07.01.02,, Phone call shuts Skyway,
By CURTIS KRUEGER and ALICIA CALDWELL, published July 2, 2002
After shutting down the Sunshine Skyway for an hour Monday morning, the Florida Highway Patrol said it had discovered nothing to bolster a caller's claim that two men threw a suspicious package off the bridge.
About 40 law enforcement officers from various agencies converged on the bridge shortly after the 8:50 a.m. incident. They searched for the men and the package, but didn't find either, said Lt. Mike Rushing, of the FHP in Manatee County.
A driver using a cellular phone made the call, saying the men were of Middle Eastern descent and driving a pickup. State troopers and other authorities quickly began looking for the supposed package, or for any ropes that might have been used to lower it or tie it to the bridge, or any other evidence.
"Nothing was found," said Rick Morera, spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Investigators interviewed the caller later Monday. Asked whether they believed the caller had accurately reported what he saw, or thought he saw, FHP Lt. Sterling King said authorities would determine "whether he was being accurate or whether he was making a false report."
But King stressed Monday afternoon that he knew "nothing to refute" a belief that the caller had good intentions. Officials would not release any information about the caller.
King said it was rare for the FHP to receive a call alleging terrorism. The incident came three days before the July Fourth holiday, at a time when federal officials have been warning the public and law enforcement to be alert for possible terrorist activity.
Once the call came in Monday, authorities swarmed the bridge.
State troopers drove over the Skyway, as other traffic was routed off the bridge spanning Tampa Bay. A Coast Guard helicopter soared above it.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard and St. Petersburg Fire Rescue personnel sailed underneath. They looked for anything that might have been tied underneath the bridge. They also searched the water where the package might have dropped, "to see if anything was floating in the water, or maybe it sank," King said.
These checks turned up nothing. No one other than the cell phone caller reported seeing anything suspicious, King said.
But an investigation was continuing Monday. Investigators were preparing to review videotape that routinely records happenings on the skyway.
Along with the bridge, the shipping channel also was closed, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Paul Rhynard. Officials at Tampa International Airport issued a temporary flight restriction over the bridge, but no commercial flights from the airport were affected.
A Coast Guard helicopter, a cutter and two other boats were used in the search. A St. Petersburg Fire/Rescue Department boat also was dispatched.
The incident delayed the departure of the Cisne Branco, a Brazilian vessel that was part of the tall-ships festival in St. Petersburg over the weekend, said Jack Glasure, president of St. Petersburg Events, which organized Americas' Sail 2002.
That meant Gene and Bev Simmet had to wait a little longer to see the ship, as they sat in their Pontiac in a rest area just north of the bridge. But the Simmets, who are retired and live in Clearwater, said they didn't mind the wait.
Tom Hafely, 44, was casting into the water on the fishing pier on the Pinellas side of the bay Monday morning when he saw police vehicles speeding up the Skyway and helicopters circling.
"Two little kids said they heard up at the shack that there was a bomb threat," Hafely said. He and Shawn Ahearn, 38, who is visiting from Pittsburgh, discussed what to do. But they figured that even if there was a boom, there wasn't much they could do.
So they kept on fishing.
"If it's a nuke, it's too bad," Hafely quipped.

07.02.02,, Man whose calls closed Skyway is arrested
By MIKE BRASSFIELD and LEANORA MINAI, published July 3, 2002
Investigators had their doubts from the beginning.
First, the caller who reported that two Middle Eastern men had thrown a suspicious package off the Sunshine Skyway bridge was able to provide details about the size and contents of the box, despite driving 70 mph.
Second, the caller said he passed the pickup carrying the two men in the middle of the bridge, but that the pickup overtook him by the end of the bridge.
"That's a little difficult to understand, how you're going 70 mph and someone can blow right by you," said Rick Morera, spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
On Tuesday, authorities arrested John Irving Taylor III, a 42-year-old Pinellas Park fisherman and plumber, and accused him of staging a hoax that caused a nightmare for countless Monday morning commuters.
State officials say Taylor's arrest on felony charges should send a message to anyone who considers reporting a fake terrorist threat.
"These kinds of activities are not going to be tolerated," Morera said. "You're talking about a threat against a major piece of infrastructure here that's vitally important."
Taylor was in the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday, his bail set at $20,000. He is charged with making a false report of a bombing or arson against state-owned property.
According to state law, Taylor, if convicted, must pay restitution to the law enforcement agencies that sent 40 officers to the Skyway on Monday morning.
The bridge was shut down for an hour as officers swarmed over and under it, checking for explosives. They turned up nothing.
The incident came three days before the July Fourth holiday, at a time when federal officials have been warning the public and law enforcement to be alert for possible terrorist activity.
At 8:41 a.m. Monday, Taylor called 911 and asked the Pinellas County operator to hook him up with the FBI, according to an arrest report. Taylor told authorities that he saw two Middle Eastern men in a pickup throw a box off the bridge.
Investigators became suspicious after hearing inconsistencies in Taylor's statements, Morera said.
Taylor admitted to investigators Tuesday that he made two prank calls, but he did not give a reason, Morera said.
That's what Taylor's neighbors in Pinellas Park were wondering Tuesday: Why would he do that?
"I don't get it. Maybe he wanted attention," said Larry Paisley, who lives across the street from him.
Taylor lives with his wife and three children in a rented house at 5420 96th Ter., a pleasant suburban street filled with well-manicured lawns. No one was at the house Tuesday.
Neighbors don't know the Taylors well.
"She was with the children, and he was by himself all the time," Paisley said. "They're very weird. Very strange people. They never go anywhere together."
Taylor has a criminal record but had not been in trouble for 15 years. He pleaded no contest in 1986 to carrying a concealed weapon and pleaded guilty to delivery and possession of marijuana in the early 1980s.
FDLE agents canvassed Taylor's neighborhood on Monday evening, asking neighbors about his whereabouts that morning. They were trying to figure out whether Taylor had been home Monday morning instead of on the Skyway.
"They wanted to know if I had seen his white van in front of the house that morning," said neighbor Tony Kieta.
The state investigators were persistent, said neighbor Joanie Van Wagner.
"It was pouring down rain, and they were going door to door," she said, "so we knew it was something big."
08.05.01: full article
03.07.01: skyway bomb threat, Tampa Bay briefs - Bomb threat closes Sunshine Skyway briefly
A bomb threat closed the Sunshine Skyway bridge for 30 minutes Tuesday while law enforcement officials searched by foot and boat for suspicious objects.
LLt. Harold Frear of the Florida Highway Patrol said the threats, one to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and two to the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office, were hoax phone calls. The bridge was closed at 11 a.m.
01.04.01: man dies after shooting self
Richard Boicheff, 65
01.05.01, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, A Sarasota man died Thursday morning after he apparently shot himself at the fishing pier on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Richard Boicheff, 65, 2600 block Moccasin Hollow Road, died after being taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with a gunshot wound to the head, Manatee County sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said. A passer-by found Boicheff in his car just after 9 a.m. Paramedics arrived shortly afterward, authorities Complete Article ($2.95) (no, we think we have had enough of your pay-per-view nonsense.)
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