Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Woman rescued after jumping from Sunshine Skyway

ST. PETERSBURG — Charter boat fishing captain Kris Winkel and three passengers were near the Sunshine Skyway bridge, heading out for tarpon early Thursday, when they heard screams.

Winkel looked up at the Skyway and saw nothing.

Straight ahead he noticed what appeared to be a crab trap. Until it started waving.

"She just lifted her arm up," Winkel said.

He steered close. Two passengers pulled the woman aboard and placed her on the deck.

Her eyes were dilated and wild, Winkel said, and she appeared to be in her mid 20s.

The impact of the fall from the Skyway tore off most of her clothes.

"She only had on shorts and a sock on her foot," Winkel said. They wrapped her in T-shirts and called police.

"I don't know if she was thinking straight," Winkel said. She told the men about wanting to avoid the "insane asylum.''

A St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue boat soon came to take woman to shore. She was listed in critical condition Bayfront Medical Center, officials said.

The woman's gold, late-model Saturn, left in a southbound lane of the bridge, was monitored by a traffic camera about 7:20 a.m. Thursday.

She sat on the edge of the bridge near the top deck and jumped into the water about 174 feet below, Fire and Rescue officials said.

The impact from that plunge into the water has killed more than 200 people, according to the website skywaybridge.com, and only 34 jumpers have survived.

For Winkel, the plan that morning was to reel in some tarpon.

For as much as $500, he gives guided fishing tours in Tampa Bay.

"Only one guy was kind of shaken up," Winkel said.

So they went fishing.

Michael Finch II can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @mike_finch2.

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