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2002 jump eventsupdated: 07.04.18
if you have any factual news, updates, or additions,
please bring it to our attention.
(our comments follow)
|12.24.02: jumper, 4:00am, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Richard Mahoney, 48
thank you, jumpnews
01.07.03, anonymous: an eye witness said that he parked his car opened the door and ran straight off of the bridge! There was also an almost empty bottle of whiskey in his car.
any more info is welcome.
01.07.03, anonymous, I have met this man and all I can say is that he was a
victim of sexual abuse and later became a sexual preditor himself...including
his own daughter and his own sister. I don't think that suicide was the answer
but I am glad that there will no longer be anymore victims. Richard
Mahoney...may you find peace and forgiveness with God.
(where did you get this info? was it published somewhere?
can we put this on the site?) we get this reply:
This is information from his daughter and other family members. I don't care if
you put it on the site. It is factual info I can ASSURE you. This was not
published...but they are facts. Again...please leave my name and city Anonymous.
11.06.03, unknown, I don't understand what these people are ranting and raving about. I knew a Jumper...The man that Jumped on Christmas eve of 2002. His name was Richard Mahoney...He was a friend of mine's father, I knew him for about 10 years. These people need to learn to greive for their loved ones instead of lashing out. Love your site!!! It has been a while since anyone has jumped.. what is going on? Dry Spell?
11.12.03, Jay, Trintiy, Fl., I knew the jumper who jumped Christmas eve of 2002. His name was Richard Mahoney. He jumped because he was lonely. The holidays can be depressing, you know.
12.05.03, Renee, richard mahoney was known to have molested more than one child and i believe he did us all a big favor by jumping!
01.27.05, CATHY, DUNEDIN, I KNEW THIS MAN HIS NAME WAS RICH. AND HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND. WE STILL DONT KNOW WHY HE DID IT. BUT WE DO KNOW WE ARE ALL HEART BROKEN.... I MISS HIM SO MUCH AND THINK OF HIM DAILY.
10.01.07, Jane Doe, Tampa, FL., Hmmm... Well, I heard about the recent double jump (9-07) and searched for info on it, since my own relative jumped a few years back and I came across the supposed details of his jump. Richard F. Mahoney jumped because he was under investigation by the the Dunedin police for being an alleged sex offender of the worst kind, children! He worked for the Pinellas County Schools doing some electronics crap around kids and lived across the street from a Recreation Center in Dunedin... Isn't that comforting?! It's the unregistered sex offenders we have to really watch for! Numerous people KNEW of his crimes and swept them under the rug for MANY years, enabling him to possibly repeat the offense on other innocent children! MAKES ME SICK!!! Every year thoughts of him haunt my Christmas... I feel sad that it ended that way for everyone related, but am relieved that my kids are safe from one less pedophile. He should of sought help for himself! I wonder who you other posters are on here... I wonder if you knew and hid his dirty secret, rather than holding him accountable. I did the right thing and I'm not sorry for that! REPORT SEXUAL ABUSE!
Just wanted to say that I doubt Rich jumped because he was lonely. Probably had something to do with the FACT that the police were graciously allowing him to turn himself in that next morning before they formally charged him as a pedophile/sex offender. I assume their kindness was a combo of the holiday season and the assumption that he had likely not physically victimized anyone in several years. He was an alcoholic. He spent nearly all his time at work for the school system and then at home in front of his computer, drinking hard liquor, with the sci-fi channel on the tv. I heard he would put liquor in his thermos that he took to work. He was a quiet, seemingly gentle and relaxed man. Went to Catholic school as a kid, an altar boy, I think... "Fathered"/raised three kids alone. Ate lots of tic tacs... I'm trying to think of something positive that can come from all this... My hope is healing, alcohol and sexual abuse awareness, family reconciliation, accountability, and reality checks all around! The jumper isn't the innocent victim here, the ones left behind to make sense of it are. The ones who struggle w/ guilt and blaming themselves for the suicide of a loved one... You assholes who sweep alcohol and sexual abuse under the rug and then suicide should be ashamed! It needs exposure to be understood and helped. Don't blame the person who seeks truth, help and accountability or the victims of this man's abuse for his selfish and wuss decision to jump to his death. I think he was afraid of further humiliation and prison, no doubt!
I don't like the jumperpools insensitive style, but there's no denying that it's a source of info, since the media won't report this stuff. And people are using it to vent their frustration, and even memorialize loved ones.
Just wondering why an old post was removed from the thread on Rich M's jump a few years ago? Legal stuff? I'm still fighting to make the truth known. There can't be complete healing until then... (sometimes we hold back a bit when posting visitor comments, as they can be rough. you should read some of the stuff we don't publish. we did re-post the old comments you mentioned.)
01.04.15, michelle m., Palm harbor, fl., The jumper was my father. All that I can say is that we all have done something that we are ashamed of and he without sin throw the first stone! I forgive my father and you should too. I only wish I knew then what I know now. He hasn't molested me in 10 yrs before this police report. I loved my father and I miss him dearly, and feel he is watching over me. Overall he was a good man! I don't know of him molesting anyone else but myself and my aunt when they where kids. (while we are glad you can cope with your history, we could never forgive the molesting of children. ever.)
|09.14.02: jumper, 8:22pm, male, hit rocks, died
Kenneth Ramsey, 22
thank you, jumpnews reporter:
09.16.02, John R., We had a new jumper on Saturday. Some 22 year old kid hit the rocks while a Hillsborough county sheriff tried to talk him down. It was in this morning's St. Pete Times in the local and state section.
any more info is welcome.
|Hillsborough Sheriff, Kenneth Ramsey, 22, St. Petersburg, September 14, 2002, 8:22 p.m. - the victim was observed by Florida Highway Patrol Corporal R .J. Kraus, to be sitting on the guard rail, with his feet hanging over the edge, of the center span. Cpl. Kraus had a brief conversation with the victim, who then jumped off of the bridge, landing on some rocks below. His body was recovered by the St. Petersburg Fire Rescue boat. The victim had parked his 1989 Chevrolet on the center span.|
09.20.02, R.S., Clearwater: I guess I'm using this as closure. I knew Kenny and
he was a great guy. He never seamed to have a worry in the world but i guess he
did. Please, USE THE PHONES AND GET HELP! I'll Miss ya Kenny
(we are sorry for your loss. sometimes those that wish to
end their lives, do not "burden" others with their problems when we wished they
would. everyone needs someone to talk to when troubled. perhaps the silence
before the fall is a warning. who can tell? we wonder what drove your friend to
04.28.06, Dee'Anna B., Kenny Ramsey was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. I miss him dearly and I am glad to know that his memory lives on, even if it is posted on a site that makes fun of what he did. We miss and love you Kenny- you're in my thoughts every time I cross the bridge. May you rest in peace.
|09.08.02: jumper, 05:20am, male, no hotline phones, hit rocks, died
Donald Murphy, 64
St. Petersburg Times, Man dies in jump from Skyway bridge
ST. PETERSBURG -- The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of a man who jumped off the Sunshine Skyway bridge early Sunday morning.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials said a witness saw the man on the bridge at 5:20 a.m., just before he jumped. The Coast Guard was called and retrieved the body about 6 a.m.
Authorities did not release the man's name, pending notification of his relatives.
It was the second Skyway suicide in less than a week. Another man jumped off the bridge Wednesday, and was found Saturday.
tbo.com, Witness saw him just before he jumped. Body quickly recovered on rocks.
|09.04.02: jumper, 12:00pm, male, hit water,
Willie Linder, 37
thank you, jumpnews reporter:
09.06.02, anonymous: I was driving across the Skyway Wednesday, Sept 4th at about 12:30 in the afternoon when I saw the abandoned car at the top of the southbound span. The guy's shoes were on the trunk. FHP, PCSO, and HCSO were all looking over the side, and the Coast Guard had the helicopter out. My boyfriend who works for HCSO said they had a report of a jumper. No details in the news though..... Was it a fake?
any more info is welcome.
Times; Officers find man's body below bridge; Florida
Highway Patrol officers discovered the body of a man Saturday, four days after
he jumped off the Sunshine Skyway bridge, according to authorities. On
Wednesday, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies investigated a report of a man
walking along the Skyway, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's
Office. The officers discovered a car and located its owner but did not find a
driver, Carter said. FHP troopers found the body under the bridge before 8 a.m.
Saturday. Authorities did not release the man's name, pending notification of
tbo.com, Got out of vehicle on main span, walked across traffic, jumped. Body recovered three days later.
|08.09.02: jumper, 6:43pm, male, died
David Coast, 45
|tbo.com, Parked vehicle on southbound side of main span, got out, jumped. Body found same day.|
|08.10.02, Dick K., My daughter and I were driving over the bridge and saw this car ahead of us pull over to the side at the top of the bridge and the flashers came on. The man got out and I said to my daughter I wonder if he's going to jump? He ran around the front of the car and rolled over the side in an instant. We were both stunned for a few seconds and thought we were imagining things until reality set in. I immediately called 911 on my cell and reported what we had seen. We were in traffic and going the speed limit and couldn't stop. I think we were both in shock for a couple of minutes. We drive over the bridge often going and coming to work at the ice rink in Ellenton. We have seen cars parked on the bridge before and heard later that it was a car that belonged to someone who had jumped. This was quite an experience to actually watch someone actually jump off the skyway bridge. I fish around the bridge on occasion and have often watched up to make sure we weren't going to have someone drop in unexpected while passing under the center span!!! It was quite an experience, to say the least. (thanks to dick. k. and his daughter for this report. he later reported that the 911 operator told him there were several other callers reporting this jump.)|
|07.24.02: jumper, 5:20am, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Kenneth Goyette, 20
|Hillsborough Sheriff, On July 24, 2002, Florida Highway Patrol found the victims 1996 Pontiac, abandoned on I-75 on the Center Span of the Skyway Bridge. The Coast Guard along with Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office aviation responded to search for the victim, but met with negative results. On July 25, 2002 the body was discovered in the bay. The body was turned over the Medical Examiners Office for the purposes of positive identification. On Friday, July 26, 2002 the victim was positively identified as Kenneth Goyette, DOB 2-6-82, Clearwater, Florida|
|Tampa Tribune, TAMPA - Authorities are searching the waters around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge after a vehicle was found abandoned this morning on the center span. The Florida Highway Patrol found a two-door, 1996 Pontiac about 5:25 a.m. Efforts to contact the registered owner were unsuccessful, a Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman said. The Sunshine Skyway has been used by suicide jumpers on a number of occasions. -- Dave Nicholson|
07.19.04, Clearwater, The jumper was one of my Best Friends. None of us know
exactly why he did it, only that he was having a hard time and did not tell us.
It has been a difficult 2 years and I am really getting tired of all the
comments surrounding his death. He was a terrific person with alot of demons.
It's too bad b/c he was so young and had so much going for him. He also had a
new girlfriend and tons of people who cared. As of what we know the patrol
officer had just left that side of rounds and the cameras just happened to be
down when he jumped. Kind of suspicious, huh? We are not quite sure if he even
jumped to begin with. There was other evidence leaning other ways, but whatever-
07.22.05, unknown, Kenny Goyette was a special person to everyone, he touched so many lives in an amazing way before he died. And he will live on forever through our memories.
08.01.10, Cynthia, Orlando, Fl., I just ran into a friend I havent seen in ten years and we were talking about friends we used to know. That is when I found out about Kenny. I was 15 when I knew him and he was the second love/crush of my life, you know how that is when your young. I still remember giving him my favorite black necklace to hold in his pocket to remember me. His best friend Jeff had died a year prior to his suicide. I heard he had overdosed on pain meds which to me of course was horrific but I had no idea he jumped off the skyway. I wanted to post this note in memory. and tell him.. I remember how much fun we used to have Swing dancing and you were the love of my life when I was 15. im sorry your best friend died and obviously you didnt get the meds or support after it happened and im sorry i never called when I moved to ny after jeff died to make sure you were ok. may you rest in peace and know that I was always so proud of you and for a young girl you gave me butterflies everytime i saw you and got to dance next to you. Please I just found this out and its been 8 years please post for my closure.. Thank you so much.. May Jehovah god look after all these people...
|07.15.02: jumper, male, hit water, died
Daniel Murphy, 57
07.17.02, St. Petersburg Times,
Man jumps to death from Sunshine Skyway
A man jumped off the center span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge late Monday or early Tuesday, authorities said. The man's body was found in the water by a fisherman. His 1992 Chevrolet was parked on the center span, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies said. His name has not been released because his relatives have not been notified.
tbo.com, Auto abandoned on bridge. Body recovered by fisherman next day.
any more info is welcome.
|05.24.02: save, male
The Suicide Rescue Report of May 24 - Florida
by Keith McGlade
My heart dropped within me when my mind finally processed what was happening. The situation was dire, and he was in desperate need of a rescue. There were about a dozen of us from our little home-church in Bradenton traveling to an open-mic concert in a coffee shop outside of Tampa where we were to play a couple of songs for a crowd of about ten. We had never done anything quite like that before, and chances are we would never do anything quite like that again! Now, we look back and realize, God had us on a course which was heading us in one direction; however, He had a greater plan in mind - one which we could never have known!
Our group got split up, and two cars carrying six of us were just crossing the top of the Skyway Bridge on I-275 when we spotted him. His car was pulled off to the side at the peak of the arch, but he wasn't in it. Instead, he was sitting on the concrete guard-rail that runs along the side of the bridge - the one that stops cars from falling off the side! His legs were dangling over the outside edge and his arms were fully extended horizontally. His intention was clear: He was about to let his life fall from the highest bridge in Florida (193'), where many before him had successfully dropped to their death.
As we quickly pulled over and piled out of the car, adrenaline immediately filled my bloodstream. By the time I exited the vehicle, Josh Turk, the only other male person in our car, had already begun to run toward the man. I told the girls to stay, said a one second prayer and then instinctively bolted after my friend. (One of the girls, Jessie, used her cell phone to call the police, while the other two, Mara and Carrie, immediately began to pray.) Since there were about a hundred yards between us and him at the onset of our excursion, we were horrified when we saw him attempt to stand up on the four-inch wide guardrail. His first attempt to raise himself up, one leg at a time, resulted in a mighty gust of wind miraculously blowing him backwards - back onto the bridge. As we closed in on him, now about ten yards away, he began to climb up a second time. By this time, I was a few feet ahead of Josh and we had reduced our speed to a brisk walk so as not to startle him into jumping. (He still hadn't seen us.) We finally made it to him just as he was raising his second foot onto the ledge. I suppose there is no nicer way of accurately explaining this next part, but just to say that I then yanked him from the guardrail, thus slamming him to the ground underneath me. As we hit the pavement, Josh simultaneously jumped on top of us so that both of our bodies were lying flat on his.
As I looked down into his face, tears instantly began to pour out from his big brown eyes. We immediately began to tell him that Jesus had a destiny for him, and that it was not for him to throw it all away. "I know life hurts sometimes," I remember telling him, "but in time Jesus can heal you from whatever pain you are suffering." We tried to repeat every inspirational saying of Rusty Thomas that we could conjure up.
What disturbed my spirit more than anything was when he told us that cars just kept passing him by. He said that he didn't think anybody was going to stop - that nobody cared! (Even throughout our whole encounter with him - nobody seemed to even notice!) I remembered the parable of the good Samaritan, and how he was left hurting and torn by the side of the road. How many people passed by this downcast young man of twenty-one knowing that he was in desperate need of help. I-275 is a busy highway. I can't help being curious as to how many people with little fish on the back of their cars and bumper-stickers that say "God bless America" left this poor guy to die in his misery.
My testimony is simply this: Praise the Lord! This man's soul was saved from the jaws of Satan. Pray for him - his name is Marcel. We are hoping to get to know him better. We would like to do all that we can to help him get to know the awesome Lord, King Jesus - who saved Him from those sharp teeth of the enemy!
[ OSA NOTE: What an incredible testimony of young people who have been trained up by godly parents to rescue those who are perishing. Tom and Linda McGlade have been faithful to impart to their children what it really means to be Christians who love their neighbor who is in the ditch. All of the McGlade children have, for years, selflessly stood in the gap for America's unborn children (being arrested many times for laying their lives down so that others may live). Because they are in tune to the silent cries of the unborn, they were in tune to the silent cries of this young man. They are rescuers, following the example of the best rescuer of all - Jesus Christ.
History repeats itself. Just as the priest and the Levite walked passed the man in the ditch in the story of the Good Samaritan, so too did Christians drive by on the bridge while this young man was dying. Everyday unborn babies are dying, and we, with our Jesus bumper stickers drive by. Thank God for those who are in tune with Holy Ghost who are willing to forsake all things so that Jesus may be glorified.
To the McGlade clan: Thanks for listening to the Lord. We love you and are encouraged greatly by your faithfulness. Well done good and faithful servants! ]
06.12.02, Update on Suicide Attempt in Florida,
Many have read about the rescue in Florida of the young man whose suicide was thwarted by the OSA folks in Bradenton, FL. These young heroes, who love Jesus more than their own lives, saw this despairing man and pulled him off the Skyway Bridge. We just received an update from our friends in Florida concerning this young man. He is doing well! They are keeping up with him and he is staying close to King Jesus! Praise God! We are so blessed to hear that part of being a Christian is following up on the welfare of others and encouraging them to stand for the King! Please continue to pray for the young man, his name is Marcel. Jesus has an awesome plan for Marcel and we are praying for great and wonderful fruit to come forth.
(superstitious people and their fictional characters.)
any more info is welcome.
|04.26.02: jumper, 10:54pm, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Mark Joseph Piper, 34
|Hillsborough Sheriff, Mark Joseph Piper, 34, DOB: 9-13-67, April 26, 2002, 10:54 p.m., On April 26, 2002, a motorist on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge reported seeing a man on the center span of the bridge, with one leg hanging over the railing. Deputies arrived and observed a 1994 Plymouth, left abandoned on the bridge. St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, Coast Guard and Sheriffs Aviation Unit searched the area with negative results. On April 27, 2002 the Coast Guard discovered Mr. Pipers body in the bay. The investigation is continuing.|
St. Petersburg Times, Man jumps to death from Skyway bridge
A 34-year-old man abandoned his car on the Sunshine Skyway bridge on Friday and jumped to his death from the southbound span, authorities said. Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said Mark Piper, who they believe lived in New Port Richey, was last seen about 11 p.m. Friday by a passing motorist. "He had one leg hooked over the guard rail . . . appearing to go over," said Deputy Dan Hillery. A Coast Guard crew pulled Piper's body from Tampa Bay about 7:30 a.m. Saturday. "There was no note," said Deputy J.D. Forbes. But "apparently he had an argument with his father and said he was going to kill himself." Piper had been taking antidepressants, deputies said.
|07.04.18, Anon, FL., Mark Joseph Piper suffered from a mental illness. There was no family fight before his death, as was mistakenly reported. He was in treatment for his illness, but unfortunately succumbed to suicidal thoughts.|
|04.14.02: jumper, 5:50am, female, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Jacquelynne Jennings, 38
|Hillsborough Sheriff, Jacquelynne Jennings, 38 DOB 9-20-63, April 14, 2002 at approximately 5:50 a.m., At approximately 5:50 a.m. witnesses observed the female on the center span of the Skyway Bridge. The witnesses stopped at the call boxes located on the bridge and called Florida Highway Patrol. When authorities arrived the victim had already jumped. Her 1989 Oldsmobile was discovered in the southbound lane of the Skyway Bridge. She had left numerous notes in her vehicle. The victims boyfriend had reported her missing the night of April 13,2002. Authorities from St. Petersburg recovered the body.|
St. Petersburg Times, Body recovered from bay in incident at Skyway
The body of a 38-year-old Ellenton woman was recovered Sunday from Tampa Bay after she apparently jumped from the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Jacquelynne Jennings of [address withheld] was reported missing Saturday night by her boyfriend, said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's deputies were called to the bridge just before 6 a.m. and found Jennings' 1989 Oldsmobile parked in the center span of the bridge's southbound lanes.
04.16.02, unknown, Florisant, MO., I'm Jacquelynne Jennings niece. Anyone who
would involve themself in a pool based on someone ending their life is sick. She
has family who are mourning over her death and it's hard to understand why
someone would want to encourage this type of behavior.
(we do not encourage anyone to jump. we encourage
help. your aunt took it upon herself to end the misery she obviously could
no longer endure and jumped. your mourning is 100% your aunt's fault. maybe her
grieving family drove her to jumping. are you all dysfunctional to the point she
couldn't take it any longer? stranger things have happened.)
04.16.02, chris v.s., St. Louis County, I think you all are sick people betting on when someone will die on this bridge. My sister's roommate aunt jumped and died just 2 days ago. Screw you all. You should be sued for all the money you bet on this, and then some!!! (people guess, not bet, on when someone jumps, not dies. money never exchanges hands. secondly, your "sister's roommate aunt" chose to jump without any input from this pool. perhaps if your "sister's roommate aunt" had visited this site, she might have gotten the help she needed and would not have jumped and we would not be up late typing all this.)
04.17.02, CHRIS S., Subject: hey you, web boy.
Bad news! Sad but very true.
My sister's roommate's aunt has been exploited because of her unfortunate death on April 14, 2002.
Article from St. Petersburg Times:
Body recovered from bay in incident at Skyway
The body of a 38-year-old Ellenton woman was recovered Sunday from Tampa Bay after she apparently jumped from the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
Jacquelynne Jennings of (address) was reported missing Saturday night by her boyfriend, said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's deputies were called to the bridge just before 6 a.m. and found Jennings' 1989 Oldsmobile parked in the center span of the bridge's southbound lanes.
Because she died some man is a winner. He correctly guessed when the next person would jump from the bridge. That's right, some sick people have a website with a pool where you can guess when the next person will jump and die. Look around, it's disturbing!!!
TELL them what you think, I DID!!! I hope the family of the deceased sues the people operating that site, and those persons who are participating in this morbid exploitation.
Feel free to send an email to Florida Senator Bob Graham (D) or to Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D)
Even the shortest messages can make a difference!
FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO ANYONE, AND EVERYONE SO THAT THEY CAN HELP TOO!!!
(great, a jumperpool 'forward' being sent to everyone and everywhere. to all those who's inboxes get cluttered with so many forwards already, we at jumperpool.com apologize on behalf of chris for this one. chris, your sister's roommate's aunt is not being exploited because she died. her inclusion on this site was her doing, as she chose to jump of her own free will. it wasn't "Because she died some man is a winner", it was because she jumped, some man is a winner. it is stated clearly on this site, that if you do not want to be included in this pool, then do not jump off the skyway. how much simpler could that be? this site does not glorify the death part of jumping from the bridge. that is just the usual conclusion. that's why it's called the "jumperpool" and not the "deadjumperpool".)
05.15.02, dennis a., Hale Michigan, USA., you know what - I am a law student and I bet your comment to Ms. Jennings' niece - dated 4/27/02 is actionable. Stating that her family might somehow be responsible for the woman's suicide, and then publishing it as well on your website, there might be a credible cause of action there. I encourage the young woman to whome you wrote such callous and deliberately cruel things to contact an attorney in her area. I really do think she might have a case. (your concern for this niece is admirable. however, if you read again what we wrote, "maybe her grieving family drove her to jumping. are you all dysfunctional to the point she couldn't take it any longer? stranger things have happened.", you would see we did not accuse or make factual statements. we offered a possible reason. a ponder and a question. we never stated emphatically that they actually drove her aunt to jump or that the family actually was dysfunctional. are you telling us that in fact, they were not possibly the reason for the jump? how do you know this? in the history of suicides, family problems rank high on the list of causes that drive people to suicide. we merely asked a question with no intention of being callous and/or cruel. could it be that the aunt is the callous and cruel one for putting the family through their sorrow and not us? the actual date of the niece's comment was 04.16.02, but we'll let your little error go. better stay in school awhile longer. better yet, drop out and do the world a favor by depriving us of one less lawyer.)
|02.12.02: full article|
|02.09.02: Tampa Bay's Fatal Attraction|
02.09.02, washingtonpost.com, By Sue Anne Pressley
The woman clearly meant to die. She paused on the railing atop the Sunshine Skyway Bridge -- the high, glittering span that has become the second most deadly bridge for suicides in the country -- lifted both arms in the air and did a swan dive into Tampa Bay.
Below, in their 21-foot fishing boat, Robert Madill and his teenage son, Michael, watched in disbelief. Despite the bridge's growing reputation as a magnet for the desperate and despondent, this was not what they expected on a bright Sunday morning -- nor did they expect to participate in a rescue that, as a large freighter bore down on the screaming woman, would endanger their own lives as well.
"I was close enough to see her face all the way down," said Madill, 42, a Tampa-area business owner, about the image that still haunts him. "She was looking down at the water. I followed her all the way down, looking at her face. I think that was the most horrifying thing."
The woman, a 31-year-old St. Petersburg resident, survived the Jan. 27 incident against all odds, becoming only the sixth person to live after jumping from the nearly 200-foot-high bridge -- the equivalent of a 20-story building. But the incident illustrated once again how those determined to take their lives are continually drawn to this graceful structure -- despite the installation of suicide hot lines on the bridge and constant patrolling by Florida Highway Patrol officers, who have managed to talk down a number of would-be jumpers.
"Bridges, historically, have been suicide places," said Lt. Rod Reder of the Hillsborough County sheriff's office, trying to explain the deadly attraction of the Skyway. "There's easy access, it's a long drop, it's 99 percent fatal. There's no turning back once you make that decision."
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is the undisputed national leader in such suicides; more than 1,200 people have jumped to their deaths from the span since it opened more than 60 years ago. But in recent years, the increasing number of jumpers from the Skyway -- more than 40 suicides in the past five years, including highs of 12 in 1998 and 12 again in 1999 -- has become a disturbing issue to law enforcement and highway officials, and politicians such as Gov. Jeb Bush (R).
Bush, who has taken an active interest in the bridge, has pushed for the installation of fences or safety netting. But the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) has deemed the measures ineffective and too costly. It would take an estimated $19 million to erect the necessary 17-foot-tall fence, said Marian Pscion, a DOT spokeswoman.
"We don't know if netting is a good idea. If someone fell into the netting, we don't know what that would do to a person," said Pscion, adding that anything added to the bridge could affect critical bridge stress factors such as wind. "The crisis phones and the highway patrol are good deterrents. We don't know if you can deter everything."
The four-mile bridge, whose majestic sweep has made it a tourist attraction, was built because of a tragedy. In May 1980, a freighter, the Summit Venture, rammed into a pylon of the old Tampa Bay bridge, sending a portion of the span into the bay, along with eight vehicles, including a bus. Thirty-five people were killed.
When the new Skyway, which towered high above the old version, opened in 1987, it included safety features to protect it from future impacts. They included a larger clearance space under the main shipping span and protective bumpers built around the center portion. But within a few years, it become clear that the bridge was taking on a different kind of deadly reputation because of the suicides and suicide attempts that occurred there.
In 1998, the bridge received a storm of media attention after a man plunged off it with his Rottweiler; the man died, but the dog survived, and much of the subsequent news coverage seemed to sympathize more with the canine victim than the human one. Two years ago, Reder said, high winds blew a woman sideways, cushioning the impact of her fall, when she tried to kill herself after fatally shooting her ex-husband and pistol-whipping his new wife. (She survived and was sentenced to prison.) Last year, 36-year-old Hanns Jones, depressed over financial and romantic troubles, survived a jump after, he said, an image of his 18-month-old son flashed before his eyes.
"I felt life was done with me," he told the Associated Press. "I was beyond fear. [But] as I got closer to the bottom, I had the feeling this was a bad idea."
Jones was able to swim nearly half the length of a football field to cling to a bridge pylon, despite a broken neck, ruptured spleen and collapsed lung.
To stem the tide of deaths, six telephones linked to counselors at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay were installed on the bridge in 1999, the only phones of their kind in the country. The next year, the Florida Highway Patrol began assigning troopers to the bridge full time. Both measures have proven effective, officials said.
"There are statistics that say that 80 percent of the people who commit suicide don't mean to die," said Cragin Mosteller, a spokeswoman with the crisis center. She said that the center's counselors have stopped 17 people from jumping from the Skyway since the phones were installed 2 1/2 years ago.
Troopers also have helped to talk down several potential suicides. "Basically, the protocol is to keep them calm and talk to them, try to hold them at bay until we can get a crisis team," said Lt. Sterling King of the state highway patrol. "We try to keep it low-key. We really don't want to publicize it too much -- we don't want to give people the idea to go there."
The St. Petersburg woman who went there Jan. 27 was immaculately dressed, in a mauve-colored dress and high heels. She landed 30 feet in front of Madill's boat. A massive freighter was coming straight at her from about 400 feet away.
"The Coast Guard told me later they might not have done what I did, but I just reacted," Madill said. "We were in the middle of the channel, she popped up screaming. I'm driving the boat, and my son looped the rope and tossed it over her head and she caught it. I gunned it and I slid over and the freighter slid over." About 50 feet separated the two vessels at their closest point, he said.
Another boat carrying three other fishermen came alongside, and those men were able to pull the woman from the water. Amazingly, the woman -- whose name has not been made public -- was not seriously injured.
"I didn't do anything more than what I hope somebody would do for me," said Madill, describing his composed son Michael, 17, as the true hero. "The whole thing was over in five minutes. To start second-guessing, you can't do it. I did what I thought needed to be done -- we saved her. I believe it was the right thing. Her family believes it was the right thing."
A kite surfer frolics in Tampa Bay near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a four-mile span that is nearly 200 feet high at its apex and has become a site for suicide attempts. Shown just prior to its 1987 opening, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge has suicide hot lines and police patrols to deter jumpers, but more than 40 suicides occurred in the past five years.
|01.27.02: jumper, 11am, female, no hotline
phones, hit water, lives
Dawn Paquin, 31
St. Petersburg Times, Boaters save woman in Skyway jump. A Hillsborough
man and his son help pull the woman from the channel and the path of an
oncoming freighter. By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- Robert Madill and his son were boating by the Sunshine Skyway on Sunday morning when they looked up to admire the bridge's center span. At that moment, a woman in a mauve-colored dress climbed the rail at the top of the bridge, "put both arms in the air and just did a swan dive right over," Madill said. They watched her fall nearly 200 feet, landing close enough for them to hear her splash into the shipping channel. When she surfaced, screaming in pain, they were shocked she was still alive.
Then they saw a freighter, "a big one," heading right for the woman, Madill said. The 42-year-old Hillsborough County business owner called 911 from his cell phone shortly after 11 a.m. as he drove his 21-foot fishing boat toward the woman. "I'm telling you, I don't have time," Madill recalled telling a 911 operator. "I need help. I got a tanker bearing down on us."
Madill's son Michael, 17, threw the woman a rope when they got close enough. She grabbed it and they towed her away from the middle of the large channel. When they got to one side of the channel, Michael leaned overboard and started trying to pull her in. Then, a second boat pulled alongside Madill's boat, Bob Kat. The three men in the second vessel, which had lower sides and more manpower, pulled the woman into their fishing boat. Within about 3 minutes, the freighter was passing about 200 feet from the two boats. The freighter was able to veer just enough to hug the other side of the channel, said Phillip Tufford, 33, who was on the second boat.
"It was cutting it close," said Tufford, of Bradenton. "By the time we got there, (the freighter) was coming pretty close, maybe 200 yards. If one of the two boats had not been there, definitely she would have been run over by the large freighter."
The 31-year-old woman, who lives in St. Petersburg, was listed in serious condition late Sunday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. "It's unbelievable," said Hillsborough Sgt. Alan Hill. "She is very, very fortunate."
With Madill talking to rescuers on his cell phone, the two boats headed to a marina about 3 miles away to meet up with rescuers. Because the water was choppy, Tufford said, his buddies on the second boat decided the marina was too far away. "She was moaning, and I could just hear her screams of pain over the boat's engine," Tufford said.
Tufford, Mark Flaker, 30, of Bradenton and Steve Lilley, 45, of Sarasota, who was operating the boat, headed for a rest area on the north side of the Skyway. They got about 50 feet from shore when they ran the boat aground and waited for rescuers. About two minutes later, rescuers from a St. Petersburg marine unit arrived and placed the woman on a stretcher. With help from the boaters, rescuers carried her to shore, where paramedics were waiting.
"It was just unbelievable," said Tufford, who owns a lawn service company. Both Tufford and Madill said they did not have time to think about whether they were placing themselves in danger when they went after the woman. "You don't think," said Madill, a Seffner resident who owns a company that installs and maintains exotic aquariums. "You react."
When asked if he thought his actions were heroic, Madill said, "Under the circumstances, I was doing what I would hope somebody would do for me if I was in a stressful time." He added that his son deserves a lot of credit because "he responded well for a teenager." His son, a junior at Brandon High School, grew up around the water and is considering a future with the Coast Guard if he doesn't go to college, Madill said. "He was hanging over the side (of the boat), looking at her face, talking to her," said Madill. "If he would have frozen, then I would have been wasting my time."
The Skyway is one of the deadliest bridges in the country for suicides. In recent years, as many as a dozen people a year have jumped to their deaths. Since the bridge opened in 1987, about a half-dozen people have survived.
In 1999, six crisis phones, which connect callers to a suicide hotline, were installed on the bridge's center spans. Shortly after Gov. Jeb Bush took office, he prodded the Department of Transportation to consider installing fences on the sides of the Skyway or safety nets below it to cut down on suicides. Those options were deemed to be unsafe or ineffective by the DOT.
Though there is a growing number of people who survive their jump off the Skyway, it is still unbelievable every time it happens, said St. Petersburg Fire Lt. Chris Bengivengo. "What a fluke that is," Bengivengo said. "Very lucky."
01.28.02, msnbc.com, Jumper Survives Skyway Plunge,
ST. PETERSBURG - A woman who landed in the fishing channel after leaping off the Sunshine Skyway on Sunday morning survived the 200-foot drop off the bridge's center span.
Dawn Paquin, 31, of St. Petersburg was listed in critical condition at the Bayfront Medical Center late Sunday.
Fewer than 10 people have survived the jump off the state's tallest bridge since it opened in 1987.
``That's fairly rare,'' said Lt. Harold Frear of the Florida Highway Patrol. ``I've done this for many years, and only a few of them have survived.''
According to authorities, at 10:55 a.m., Paquin drove to the center span of the bridge and jumped. Several boaters saw her make the 20-story leap. Robert Madill, 42, of Seffner plucked her out of the fishing channel. A fishing boat took her to an offshore rest area where it was met by paramedics.
``They did a great job,'' said firefighter Scott Crowell, who responded to the call. ``They were awesome.''
Crowell said Paquin was conscious and talking when they arrived on the scene. She was transported to St. Petersburg's Bayfront Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, including a possible separated shoulder.
``It's amazing that someone has jumped from that height and has such minor injuries,'' said Lt. Chris Bengivengo, a spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. ``It's almost miraculous.''
There were some other startling survival stories last year.
Katherine Freeman, 42, broke both legs and her pelvis when she jumped off the bridge six hours after killing her ex-husband and trying to kill his wife in their Carrollwood home May 15. She was rescued after 45 minutes in the water. Freeman is serving a life sentence.
In August, Steven Ray Wood, 26, was taken to Bayfront Hospital in serious condition after jumping off the bridge into shallow waters near rocks.
In May, paramedics found Hannis F. Jones, 35, naked on the base of one of the bridge's pillars after his jump. He suffered fractured ribs and lung injuries.
The bridge has become an increasingly popular spot for suicides in recent years, making it the third-deadliest bridge in the country behind San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and San Diego's Coronado Bridge. The number of Skyway deaths has risen from six in 1996 to 12 each in 1999 and 2000.
After learning of the suicides when he visited a Hillsborough County crisis center in 1998, Gov. Jeb Bush asked the state Department of Transportation to look into suicide-prevention measures such as installing fences or safety nets.
The department opted for more state troopers on the bridge, security cameras and crisis telephones. Reporter Brenna Kelly contributed to this report. Reporter Natashia Gregoire.
01.29.02: full article
01.31.02: full article
10.06.03, read more about Dawn Paquin: skyway safeguards don't deter jumpers
|open request to Dawn Paquin: care to tell your story?|
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