Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Public safety

Man who drove car off Sunshine Skyway fishing pier found dead (w/ video)

A man drove a car off the southern fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway on Wednesday, plunging through a barrier and into Tampa Bay, authorities said.

The man, identified only as being from Eustis in Lake County, was soon found dead inside the sunken two-door red Mercedes.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the incident, though witness reports cited in the Bradenton Herald suggest the man intentionally drove off the bridge.

Paul Robicheau, 61, of Parrish told the Herald he had been fishing when he saw the man, who looked to be in his 40s, pull up in the convertible about 2 p.m.

The well-dressed man got out to smoke a cigarette, Robicheau said. He walked to the pier wall. Then he drove back toward the fishing pier gate, turned around and sped toward the pier's end, crashing through a pier barrier at nearly 100 mph. Robicheau heard the engine roar.

Dr. John Sinnott was fishing with his grandson on a boat when his radio crackled with news of the car's plummet. He got to the scene in 10 minutes.

"I could see where the barrier wall had been rammed out, and there was an oil slick in front of the pier," Sinnott said. He called to the people on the pier and asked what had happened.

"I immediately put on a snorkel mask and dove in the water," he said.

The current was strong, the water cool. Visibility was low. Sinnott kept getting gasoline in his face. He dove three times. He couldn't see a person, just the murky outline of the car in the water, 22 feet deep.

"There was nothing that could be done that I could see," he said. "What a terrible tragedy, oh my gosh. This was just a shocking event."

Sinnott, chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida, stood by until authorities arrived. Divers from St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue located the car, which was then pulled out of the water with the man still inside.

"The people on the dock were just, they didn't know what to say," Sinnott said.

The fatal plunge wasn't the first from that pier. On the last day of 1998, a pier toll operator finished his midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, then sped down the pier, plunging his truck into the bay.

His truck clipped a Honda Accord near the end of the pier, then crashed through a foot-thick concrete barrier. He drowned.

William Dusty Sallee's death was ruled an accident without a suicide note or other evidence to prove his intention. But witnesses said Sallee, 38, had been driving 70 mph, staring straight ahead. Some said they heard the car accelerate before he reached the pier's end.

Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

Comments
Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office now has Facebook and Twitter accounts in Spanish.The agency celebrated the official launch of the accounts on Wednesday. Sheriff Chad Chronister said the goal is to connect with an increasing number of...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando sheriff’s deputies seized 90 animals on Tuesday and arrested a woman on animal cruelty and animal mistreatment charges after people called with concerns about an ill horse.Crystal Robin Crawford, 46, was arrested but not taken ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is setting the record straight about a viral Facebook video posted by a Dunedin woman who claimed she almost fell victim to human trafficking. Lynne Knowles took to Facebook to share what happened to her at the Pu...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

NEW PORT RICHEY — A few hours before he was lying on his back in the woods, shirtless with a dog’s jaws clamped around his arm, Kevin Wilson climbed into a second-story window and tried to kidnap a 6-month-old baby girl, according to the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

WASHINGTON — While Hurricane Florence barreled through the Carolinas, a different type of storm was brewing within the federal disaster relief agency tasked with responding to the fallout.The fate of Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergen...
Published: 09/19/18
Largo names new fire chief

Largo names new fire chief

LARGO — After two nationwide searches that produced 119 applicants, City Manager Henry Schubert didn’t have to look far to find his new fire chief.Schubert announced recently that Chad Pittman, deputy chief of Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, w...
Published: 09/19/18
Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — An 18-year-old man was critically injured Tuesday when he was shot at an apartment complex in northeast Tampa.Officers responded about 2:30 a.m. to a call about an unknown emergency at the Silver Oaks Apartments, 4200 Kenneth Court, Ta...
Published: 09/18/18
Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

TAMPA — Police are bringing manslaughter charges against a Tampa man accused of throwing a fatal punch last April at well-known local muralist Matt Callahan.The suspect, 34-year-old Keith Mauga of Tampa, already is serving five years for aggravated b...
Published: 09/18/18
Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

TARPON SPRINGS — A 58-year-old man was killed Monday after a car struck him as he was crossing the road in a wheelchair.According to Tarpon Springs police, Jon Pendleton, operating a manual wheelchair, started to cross U.S. 19 near Martin Luther King...
Published: 09/18/18
Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

LAND O'LAKES — It started just after 9:30 Saturday night. Detectives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office called counterparts in Pasco. Suspects they had been following through several counties might be hitting a trailer lot along Land O...
Published: 09/18/18