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Authorities rescue would-be jumper on Sunshine Skyway

ST. PETERSBURG — Seth Jacobson has been a firefighter and paramedic for more than 20 years.

He's rarely surprised by what he sees on the job.

But five hours into his 24-hour shift on Tuesday, Jacobson got a shock. About 1:30 p.m., he and other emergency responders were called to the Sunshine Skyway bridge for a report of a disabled vehicle.

When they got to the top of the southbound side, they saw a Jeep with a trailer parked on the right-hand side of the road. Everything seemed normal, until a man stepped out of the passenger door.

"He had a noose around his neck and a knife to his throat and was screaming at us to get away from him," Jacobson said.

Within moments, the man had moved to the bridge wall, sitting with both legs over the side and his gaze fixed on the water. The rope around his neck was anchored to his Jeep.

Jacobson didn't go away. He spent the next several minutes talking with the man, whom he eventually persuaded to get down.

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper then used a Taser on the man, who was still armed, and took him into custody under the Baker Act.

"It was an intense 30 to 45 minutes," Jacobson, 47, said. "It felt like eight hours."

Authorities did not release the man's name. He is 44, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Larry Kraus.

Jacobson, a father and grandfather, said the encounter was stressful, but comes with the job.

In fact, he said, it was the would-be jumper who chose him. When a trooper initially tried to approach the man, the man balked and pointed his finger at Jacobson to come nearer.

"He wanted me to understand why he killed himself so I could tell other people," Jacobson said. "He said, 'Well, you don't know me and you don't know the beast in me.' "

Amid strong wind gusts and trucks whizzing by, Jacobson told the man he, too, had a beast in him. "I was trying to tell him we all have nightmares in our life."

Jacobson had another bargaining chip — the man mentioned a female, and the paramedic said he would try to contact her.

"He was in a very precarious position," Jacobson said. "It's amazing he didn't go over."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Fast facts

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If you are considering suicide or know someone who needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-8255.

Authorities rescue would-be jumper on Sunshine Skyway 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 10:38pm]
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