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Officials: Man dies after putting self in front of Tampa airport tram

Published Oct. 7, 2014

TAMPA — A 44-year-old man from New Jersey died Sunday at Tampa International Airport after airport officials said he walked onto the shuttle bridge and appeared to intentionally place himself in front of an oncoming tram.

Airport officials Monday identified him as Jeffrey Ober of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

According to the airport, the incident occurred around 8:40 a.m. Sunday.

Ober had booked a ticket on JetBlue Airways and his flight was set to depart Tampa at 10:57 a.m. for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Ober took a tram from the main terminal to Airside A, airport officials said. But when he arrived at the airside, instead of going through security, officials said, he turned around and walked out the doors leading to the walkway. Once outside, Ober appeared to place himself in front of an oncoming automated tram, according to airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps.

"He jumped over the railing and leaned out over the track as the blue shuttle was approaching," Nipps said.

Ober was struck by the tram, then fell through the tracks to the pavement below. He was killed instantly, the airport said. The tram did not stop and no one aboard was injured.

Airport police are still investigating, but preliminary findings indicated he committed suicide. Airport officials said someone in the parking lot below the tram witnessed the incident. Ober was traveling alone and did not have contraband or weapons on him when he died, officials said.

The doors Ober used to exit the airside are labeled "emergency exit." But Nipps said that travelers actually are allowed to use the bridges to walk the 1,000 feet between the main terminal and airsides. The emergency signs are only meant to discourage people, she said, from using them. The doors are not locked and there are no alarms.

"We don't consider it unsafe to walk across the shuttle bridges," Nipps said.