Tuesday the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office shut down lanes on the southbound side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge because of a suicidal man who planned to jump off of the 197-foot bridge. Disappointingly, however, passengers stuck in the resulting traffic jam voiced more concern about the delay caused than about the suicidal man.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Florida Highway Patrol received thousands of angry phone calls from commuters stuck on the bridge — commuters allegedly angry about the decision to close the lanes on the bridge in order to deal with the disoriented man.
Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, told the Times that the decision was made to close the bridge in order to allow deputies to talk to the man and avoid giving him the opportunity to run in front of passing cars.
Yet, Michael Geraci, a commuter caught in the traffic, told the Times, “No one came to help, to give water, or even to tell us what was happening … that’s the most disheartening part of this whole ordeal.”
What was the most disheartening part of the situation was the fact that a man was trying to end his life, potentially only feet away from where Geraci’s car was stopped, not the admittedly inconvenient situation it put commuters in.
According to rough statistics compiled by Jumppool.com, a sarcastic yet anti-suicide Web site tracking how many suicides occur on the Skyway bridge, 13 suicides with only three saves took place at the bridge in 2003. Hillsborough County itself was ranked the second-highest county in Florida for the number of suicides in 1997, as reported by The USF Department of Child & Family Studies.
According to the Times, since the FHP began suicide watches in 2000, 46 lives have been saved — without shutting down the bridge. But considering the fact that deputies felt it was not only necessary to shut down the lanes, but to have snipers present as well, it is apparent that the closures were made in the public’s best interest.
All people involved with the Skyway incident walked away unscathed. Outcomes such as these need to be considered before people complain about being stuck in traffic.