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Skyway jumper rescued from Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Officer Terry Noll was cruising in his boat across the mouth of the Tampa Bay on Thursday morning, headed for training in St. Petersburg, when he got a call from dispatch.

A woman had jumped off the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

The veteran officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission turned around and headed for the southern end of the Skyway, where a 44-year-old woman was floating in the chilly water. She had left her car in the shoulder and jumped about 20 feet into the water, authorities said.

She waved twice for help, then went facedown in the bay.

When Noll pulled her out, she was gasping for air.

Meanwhile, Ryan Dilkey, coordinator of Eckerd College Search and Rescue, had been scrambling to assemble a team of students.

About 10:45 a.m., he received a call from emergency workers that someone jumped off the bridge. Working from a list of volunteers trained for rescues, he found four students to help within 10 minutes. One stayed on shore to keep tabs on the situation and three accompanied him in a 26-foot boat.

Near the Skyway, two students boarded Noll's boat, where the woman was responsive but disoriented, Dilkey said.

The students, who are trained in emergency procedures, tended to her as Noll raced to O'Neill's Marina in St. Petersburg, said wildlife commission spokesman Gary Morse.

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue paramedics took the woman to Bayfront Medical Center, where she was in stable condition.

The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the incident but declined to release her name.

Noll went on to his national security training, and Dilkey was relieved the situation turned out well. The Eckerd College group trains for all kinds of rescues. Because of the college's location, Skyway suicide attempts are inevitable.

"I'm glad to see one rescued," Dilkey said.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.

Skyway jumper rescued from Tampa Bay 03/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 11:52pm]

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