Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Barricades go up after two men fall off John's Pass Bridge

MADEIRA BEACH — Aaron Motta wanted to keep fishing. The current had just changed beneath the John's Pass Bridge and the 17-year-old thought this would be his chance to catch fish.

His mom wanted him to come home. She sent him a text telling him as much. Aaron sent her a text, saying he would be home soon, then headed across the bridge for one last shot.

Several minutes later, and still no sign of Aaron, his mother sent another text:

"You fall in or something?''

Aaron already was in the water.

These days, stories about people falling off the new bridge are not uncommon.

Late Friday, Joseph Schlag, 31, of Pinellas Park fell off while fishing, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office reported.

Schlag fell about 30 feet through an opening on the bridge median, landing head-first on a concrete piling. He remains at Bayfront Medical Center in critical condition with a fractured skull.

On Tuesday, state officials closed off a section of the median, which separates the northbound and southbound lanes.

"We're still investigating whether we need to do something," said Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marian Scorza.

The median doesn't extend across the bridge. Near its peak it stops, leaving a 100-foot-long, 3-foot-wide opening.

That's where people are falling through.

Madeira Beach Fire Chief Derryl O'Neal said the problem is that some pedestrians, usually fishermen, are trying to cross at that point.

"It's not a designated walkway,'' he said.

The bridge was rebuilt over four years, reopening in 2010. The top of the deck is about 30 feet above John's Pass.

But to some passers-by, the median is deceiving.

"I was shocked,'' said Motta, who sustained minor injuries but swam to safety.

Alex Oremland, 20, of Safety Harbor, works nearby but fishes frequently off the bridge.

"It's hard to tell,'' he said, "because a part of it is concrete and then it just drops."

Michael Finch II can be reached at mfinch@tampabay.com and on Twitter at @mike_finch2.

Barricades go up after two men fall off John's Pass Bridge 07/03/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 12:11am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.