Passing driver takes photo of Skyway horror

Dan Aberg was heading south over the Sunshine Skyway on Monday afternoon when he saw a trail of smoke ahead.

Just another accident in the same old trouble spot, he thought.

Still, he had his cell phone in one hand and, while he had never taken a photograph with it, raised it to his windshield and snapped. He continued over the bridge at 50 mph and didn't give it another thought.

Until he saw news reports later.

Only then did Aberg realize he may have unwittingly captured a crucial moment in an apparent murder-suicide at the top of the Skyway that snarled rush hour traffic for hours.

The photo shows a car parked at the top of the bridge, fire shooting out of the trunk and a man standing nearby.

Authorities say a body was found inside the trunk and that the man who set it jumped off the bridge to his death.

"It didn't occur to me in the slightest that something like this could be going on," Aberg told the St. Petersburg Times in an exclusive interview. "Stuff happens up there all the time. I figured somebody's luggage or tire was on fire. Then I saw people stopped on the side of the road and I saw the emergency people coming, so I figured everything was under control."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over that part of the bridge because it spans the shipping channel, said a small gray car stopped on the bridge around 3 p.m. and a man got out. As St. Petersburg Fire Rescue tried to extinguish the flames, the man jumped off the bridge to his death. Then firefighters discovered a burning body in the trunk.

The Lakeland Police Department is now taking over the investigation.

Aberg said he didn't know of the extent of the bizarre incident on the bridge until he arrived at work in Sarasota on Tuesday morning.

"To be honest, that's just not something I would have thought of," he said.

Passing driver takes photo of Skyway horror 10/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 1:43pm]

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