Advertisement
  1. News

Man who drove car off Sunshine Skyway fishing pier found dead (w/ video)

St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue assists North River Fire District with an attempted rescue off of the south fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway. [St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue] 
Published Dec. 24, 2015

A man drove a car off the southern fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway on Wednesday, plunging through a barrier and into Tampa Bay, authorities said.

The man, identified only as being from Eustis in Lake County, was soon found dead inside the sunken two-door red Mercedes.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the incident, though witness reports cited in the Bradenton Herald suggest the man intentionally drove off the bridge.

Paul Robicheau, 61, of Parrish told the Herald he had been fishing when he saw the man, who looked to be in his 40s, pull up in the convertible about 2 p.m.

The well-dressed man got out to smoke a cigarette, Robicheau said. He walked to the pier wall. Then he drove back toward the fishing pier gate, turned around and sped toward the pier's end, crashing through a pier barrier at nearly 100 mph. Robicheau heard the engine roar.

Dr. John Sinnott was fishing with his grandson on a boat when his radio crackled with news of the car's plummet. He got to the scene in 10 minutes.

"I could see where the barrier wall had been rammed out, and there was an oil slick in front of the pier," Sinnott said. He called to the people on the pier and asked what had happened.

"I immediately put on a snorkel mask and dove in the water," he said.

The current was strong, the water cool. Visibility was low. Sinnott kept getting gasoline in his face. He dove three times. He couldn't see a person, just the murky outline of the car in the water, 22 feet deep.

"There was nothing that could be done that I could see," he said. "What a terrible tragedy, oh my gosh. This was just a shocking event."

Sinnott, chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida, stood by until authorities arrived. Divers from St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue located the car, which was then pulled out of the water with the man still inside.

"The people on the dock were just, they didn't know what to say," Sinnott said.

The fatal plunge wasn't the first from that pier. On the last day of 1998, a pier toll operator finished his midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, then sped down the pier, plunging his truck into the bay.

His truck clipped a Honda Accord near the end of the pier, then crashed through a foot-thick concrete barrier. He drowned.

William Dusty Sallee's death was ruled an accident without a suicide note or other evidence to prove his intention. But witnesses said Sallee, 38, had been driving 70 mph, staring straight ahead. Some said they heard the car accelerate before he reached the pier's end.

Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
  2. Lilly Beth Rodriguez, left, Laura Robertson and Linda Lamont work on a Habitat for Humanity house in north Pasco. [Times (2013)]
    The increase is expected to happen in the first half of next year. CEO hopes other nonprofits follow suit.
  3. Terry Spencer carries his daughter, Trinity, through high water on 59th Street near Stewart Road in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, as heavy rain from Tropical Depression Imelda caused street flooding on the island. JENNIFER REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches or more this week.
  4. This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)
    A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
  5. The number of single-family homes sold in the Tampa Bay area during August rose 2.8 percent when compared with the same month last year, according to a monthly report from Florida Realtors. (Times file photo)
    The midpoint price in the bay area rose to $250,000, which is still lower than the state and national median prices.
  6. This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    “People need to pay attention to the birds around them because they are slowly disappearing,” said the study’s lead author.
  7. Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh has pleaded guilty in the 2017 slaying of Safety Harbor neighbor David Sommer, a former reporter. Harbaugh also pleaded guilty to a charge he tried to have a witness in the case killed. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Michael Harbaugh, 42, also pleaded guilty to trying to have a fellow inmate kill a witness in the murder case.
  8. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  9. The Aldi store located on 1551 34th St N, St. Petersburg, Florida in 2018, features its updated layout. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    The store will re-open after renovations on Thursday, Sept. 26
  10. Vice President Joe Biden, right, talks to supporters as former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, stands near during a campaign stop at at Century Village in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Crist is locked in a tight race against Gov. Rick Scott in one of the most negative gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. The two disagree on most major issues, including health care, the minimum wage, Cuba policy, gay marriage and medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) ORG XMIT: FLAD102 ALAN DIAZ  |  AP
    The Florida Republican-turned-Democrat said Biden’s ‘record of getting things done speaks for itself.’
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement