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2001 jump eventsupdated: 08.06.22
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08.29.01: jumper, 2pm, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Grady Mart, 38
St. Petersburg Times, Man jumps to death from Sunshine Skyway
A 38-year-old Lakeland man jumped to his death off the Sunshine Skyway bridge Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Grady Mart, who lived in Lakeland, leaped from the Skyway's center span about 2 p.m., according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Mart parked his Toyota Camry on the southbound side at the top of the bridge. A woman driving by called the Florida Highway Patrol on her cell phone to report seeing a man sitting on the bridge's side wall.
The U.S. Coast Guard recovered Mart's body in water beneath the Skyway.
tbo.com, Stopped his Camry on southbound side. Witness reported seeing him sitting on wall of center span.
|08.19.01: jumper, late pm, male, used phones, hit water, lives
Steven Ray Wood, 26
08.20.01, hank, st. pete.: I was driving over the crest of the skyway yesterday as the sun was setting, there was an SUV parked in the right lane. Something was strange, when I got past the SUV my girlfriend grabbed my arm, I looked out the window, and there was a man standing on the 3ft wall. I looked away. Then as I was driving away I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him seem to lose his balance, bend his knees slightly, and then step off. That's my suicide story.
08.20.01, John, Clearwater: I was driving over the Bridge last night on my way home from Palm Beach and I actually saw a man who was talking to a police oficer standing on the wall in a Black T Shirt. Well when the police officer turned his head to talk into his shoulder microphone, the guy jumped. I could not believe it. I witnessed a jump. There was so much cargo ship traffic I am amazed the stupid bastard did not land on top of one of them. There was actually one going under at the time and two ready to go under to get out of Tampa Bay. It is an honor to say that I actually saw someone jump. I know I am sick but I can live with that.
St. Petersburg Times, Man rescued after jump from Skyway, By ROBERT FARLEY. ST. PETERSBURG -- A distraught man jumped off the Sunshine
Skyway late Sunday, shunning the efforts of rescuers trying to talk him down.
Rescuers managed to save him nevertheless, quickly plucking him from the water.
He became only the sixth or seventh person to survive a jump since the bridge
opened in 1987. That rescuers were nearby was fortuitous, said Gerard Chalmers,
a district chief for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. He said he had just made a
U-turn on the Manatee County side of the bridge after a call about an unattended
motorcycle and a man using one of the crisis phones on the bridge. Chalmers
noticed a car parked along the shoulder of the bridge. He thought it was someone
catching the sunset but that he better check to see if there was car trouble.
Suddenly, the driver accelerated his car forward. With Chalmers following behind
in his sport utility vehicle, the car swerved several times over to the
shoulder, then back on the road. Then the driver, whom he identified as Steven
Ray Wood, 26, pulled over sharply, jumped out and ran to the edge of the bridge
and threw a leg over the side. Then he returned to the road, ran to the other
side and again flung a leg over the side. At first, Chalmers didn't know if the
guy was fooling. But he radioed dispatch. A St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue
marine rescue crew had decided after the unsubstantiated call to perform a
training session. So the boat was on the scene almost immediately, but out of
view of the possible jumper. As Wood climbed up and stood on the rail, Chalmers
and other emergency workers tried to talk him down. "You don't really want to do
this," Chalmers remembers telling him. "It will be extremely painful. It's not
the way to die. "He said he had some girlfriend troubles," Chalmers said. "He
was quite upset." And then he stepped off the ledge. Wood had been standing
directly over rocks at the south end of the shipping channel, so Chalmers
figured he was done for. But as the man fell, the wind resistance and his body
position began to carry him north, away from the rocks. Wood splashed into the
water on his back. It was so shallow, Chalmers said, that the splash revealed
rocks below. Though a pool of blood formed around Wood, Chalmers could see him
moving. He radioed for the boat to move in, and within a minute, Wood was in the
boat. A helicopter transported him to Bayfront Medical Center. A hospital
spokesperson listed him in serious condition.
08.21.01: full article
08.??.01: save, female
sptimes.com, Kids heal as family wonders why
Allegedly stabbed by their mother, the children may leave the hospital today. Where will they go?
By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- A year and a half ago, Heidi Hughes-Cihaner stood atop the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, peering down toward death.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper eventually coaxed her from the edge and took her to St. Anthony's Hospital for treatment. It was her third of four psychiatric hospitalizations.
Two weeks ago, a Hillsborough judge ruled Hughes-Cihaner fit to take custody of her two children, Sarah, 3, and Seyhmus, 5, despite pleas from their father that they stay with him.
Wednesday, Hughes-Cihaner repeatedly stabbed both children with a 4-inch steak knife inside her Valrico mobile home, police say.
The good news: Both children are expected to be released today from Tampa General Hospital.
The bad news: Their future looks as grim as their past.
Their mother sits in a jail cell, charged with trying to kill them.
Social service investigators have argued against returning them full time to their father, Metin Cihaner, a man who once spent three months in jail awaiting criminal extradition to Turkey. They say he has "little grasp of how to parent."
Even Judge Katherine Essrig, who returned the children to their mother, drew criticism Thursday.
"It defies logic," Cihaner's attorney, Robert Tropp, said of the decision. "I'm just at a loss."
Essrig, reached at home, said she couldn't discuss her decision.
"The canon of judicial contact prohibits us from comments or statements of cases pending before us," she said. "I just can't discuss it. I wish I could."
* * *
The Cihaners met in a mall. Both said it was love at first sight. But the love turned sour.
She called him "the devil" because of his Muslim beliefs and a "professional con artist" because of his problems with the law. He called her "unstable," attacking her increasingly zealous Christian beliefs.
Thursday, she sat shackled in an orange jumpsuit, eyes closed, head bowed, crying during a hearing in a Hillsborough courtroom. He ended up on the lobby floor of the same courthouse, overcome by chest pains from the stress and heartache.
Among the many unanswered questions Thursday was what sort of life the children, Sarah and Seyhmus, will walk into when they step out of the hospital doors.
The two children have been caught in a nasty tug of war since the Cihaners separated in May 2001.
But the couple's troubles started much earlier.
Not long after they met, Metin Cihaner was arrested in December 1995 and held in jail for three months while Turkey tried to have him extradited.
According to court records, Cihaner was accused of using forgery to obtain a false power of attorney from a Turkish man. Cihaner then transferred the man's home to his own brother, who later sold the property, officials said.
A federal judge found "no probable cause" for the charges and set Cihaner free. He and Heidi married almost immediately, in March 1996.
But by May 2001 they were separated. And despite her August incident on the Skyway Bridge, court records show that she retained full custody of the children.
A judge ruled Metin Cihaner a risk to flee the country with the children and granted him only supervised visitation.
It wasn't until Hughes-Cihaner was hospitalized for a fourth time, in January, that her husband filed an emergency motion to regain custody of the children. By March, he had them back.
But the past nine months have been even worse, both for the parents and their children.
In April, Cihaner filed a domestic injunction against his wife. He said she repeatedly called him "the devil" and taught the children that "Christians are good" and "Muslims are bad." He also claimed she kicked and scratched him.
A judge ordered Hughes-Cihaner to stay 300 feet from her husband.
Meanwhile, a child custody investigator interviewed both parents and watched the children interact with them separately. In a May report, the investigator said she had "concerns regarding both parents."
She said Hughes-Cihaner seemed to have an "emotional detachment" with the children and "no awareness of the severity of her emotional concerns."
She said Cihaner would frequently "dote on and spoil" his children and was "very attentive" to their needs, but that he had a "lack of parenting skills."
Ultimately, the investigator concluded that Cihaner was "in a much stronger position emotionally to care for these children."
Even Hughes-Cihaner's mother sided with Cihaner, calling him a "good daddy" and deeming her own daughter "not in touch with reality."
Cihaner cared for the children, with his wife getting supervised visits, until Dec. 5. That's when Judge Essrig, after hearing more than a week of testimony and considering recommendations from the Department of Children and Families, returned the youngsters to their mother.
"What bothers me," Tropp said, "is that (DCF) recommended that the kids go with the mama. And the mama's the one who stabbed them. How right could they be?"
* * *
Cihaner tried to get custody of his children again Thursday. He sat in a small courtroom crowded with reporters, social workers and lawyers, just two seats from his estranged wife.
He left unhappy, looking shell-shocked when DCF officials urged circuit Judge Anthony Black not to grant him custody. The judge agreed.
Cihaner will be allowed to pick up the children from the hospital and have his regularly scheduled visitation with them this weekend. The judge also said he could spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with them.
Otherwise, they must stay with a friend or family member approved by DCF. The case is scheduled to go before Essrig again Jan. 2.
Sarah and Seyhmus remained at Tampa General Hospital late Thursday recovering from surgery. Cihaner himself was taken to TGH after his collapse at the courthouse. Hughes-Cihaner remained at the county jail without bail.
All of them are broken, shattered in their own way.
Tropp said he hoped the new year would bring new hope to the family.
"Hopefully this nightmare will come to an end, once and for all."
|05.30.01: jumper, 05:00pm, male, no hotline phones, hit water, lives
Hanns F. Jones, 36
St. Petersburg Times, By TODD WRIGHT,
As they searched the waters beneath the Sunshine Skyway bridge, rescuers were looking for a body. That's usually what they find when someone jumps the nearly 200 feet from the crest of the bridge. Suddenly, one of the divers noticed a naked man sitting on rocks at the base of one of the huge pillars. He was obviously in pain and was pleading for help. "I'm hurt bad," the man told rescuers as they approached the rocks. The impact of the fall apparently ripped the clothes off the 36-year-old white Pinellas County man. Rescuers estimated he then swam 40 yards and climbed atop the rocks. "It's amazing that he lived," said St. Petersburg Fire Department paramedic Jim Cunningham. "I was expecting to find another dead body." The man, whose identity had not been confirmed late Wednesday, was placed on a 25-foot U.S. Coast Guard boat and driven to Maximo Park, where he was transferred to an ambulance and taken to Bayfront Medical Center.
Cunningham said the man suffered multiple rib fractures, substantial internal bleeding and a decompressed left lung. "He was very alert when we got to him, but in an obvious amount of pain," Cunningham said.
The rescue began as the fire department's marine dive team received the dispatch call at 5:06 p.m. Passers-by on the bridge called 911 and reported that a man was standing on the rail at the top of the center span. His pickup truck was parked a few feet away. Capt. Don Masters said the man jumped from the top of the center span, about a 200-foot drop to the water. Most don't survive. In recent years, as many as a dozen people a year have jumped to their deaths. The number rose from six in 1996 to eight in 1997, then to 12 in 1998 and 1999. The Skyway has the reputation of being a magnet for suicides. It's the third-deadliest bridge in the country for suicides, after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and San Diego's Coronado Bridge. But some who jump off the Skyway survive. Records show that five people have survived their leaps since the bridge opened in 1987. The most recent was Katherine Freeman, 42, who leaped from the bridge about a year ago after killing her ex-husband and trying to kill his wife. Officials credited brisk winds with slowing her descent. The fall broke her pelvis and legs. She is now in prison.
A Rottweiler named Shasta survived the fall when her owner jumped to his death in May 1998. It was never known whether the dog followed her master or went involuntarily.
In recent years, state officials have focused more on suicide prevention on the bridge. In 1999, six crisis phones were installed on the bridge's center spans. The red phones connect callers to a suicide hotline. Shortly after Gov. Jeb Bush took office, he prodded the Department of Transportation to consider installing fences on the sides of the Skyway or safety nets below it to cut down on suicides. The DOT ruled out those options, saying fences would affect the bridge's aerodynamics and could make it less safe in high winds, and safety nets might be ineffective because people could crawl to the edge of the net and jump from there. Instead, the DOT favored a different strategy: putting more FHP troopers and security cameras on the Skyway. A trooper now patrols the bridge 24 hours a day. - Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report.
06.01.01, Bradenton Herald, A Palm Harbor man, who survived a 200-foot jump from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Sterling King. Hannis F. Jones, 35, jumped off the bridge Wednesday, suffering multiple rib fractures, internal bleeding and injuries to his left lung, according to reports. The impact caused Jones' clothes to rip off, according to reports. Despite his injuries, Jones managed to swim about 40 yards to rocks. He pulled himself out of the water. Authorities said Jones is the sixth person known to have survived the 200-foot drop, according to the Associated Press.
06.01.01, St. Petersburg Times, Jump survivor had struggled with depression; TODD WRIGHT;
Hanns F. Jones, who survived jumping off the Sunshine Skyway bridge on Wednesday, had been visibly depressed about problems with his girlfriend just a few days earlier, a friend said. Jones, 35, was in intensive care Thursday at Bayfront Medical Center after suffering rib and lung injuries.
"He was real upset. All he talked about is how he was under a lot of stress because he was about to break up with his girlfriend," said Jose Llano, who Jones stayed with Monday night. Llano, a Tampa resident, said the last time he saw Jones was around 1 p.m. Tuesday when he drove off in a 1972 Ford pickup.
Florida Highway Patrol officer Gerald Triplett reported that same pickup was found abandoned on the bridge a few feet from where Jones jumped. On the truck's dashboard, Triplett found Jones' wallet and a Father's Day card that had the words, "Love, Your Son," on the inside.
Jones dropped nearly 200 feet from the center of the bridge before crashing into the water and swimming 40 yards to some rocks attached to a support pillar. Jones, an inventor, was in business with Viable Products L.C. in Tampa. In 1999, he received a patent from the U.S. Patent Office for an invention called the Sock Locker, designed to keep pairs of socks together while being washed. He sold the idea to Viable Products.
Jeffrey Gitto, a business associate of Jones, said he was unsuccessful in attempts to reach Jones over the past two months. "Hanns was very conscious about what people thought of him or his ideas," said Gitto, who has known Jones for six years.
According to Llano, Jones had been staying with him off and on for the last six months and had recently gotten a job as a part-time bathroom valet at Mons Venus, a nude-dance club in Tampa. Llano said girlfriend troubles often brought Jones to his home. "As far as I know, he had no where else to go," said Llano.
06.12.01, St. Petersburg Times, By TODD WRIGHT, Leap from Skyway changes his life:
"I was just happy to be alive," says a man who survived a 200-foot suicide jump into the water. To Hanns Jones, his 200-foot freefall from the Sunshine Skyway bridge on May 30 was a scene unfolding in slow motion. At first, he felt like a bird in flight, relaxed and calm while admiring the rays cutting through the clouds. Then, as the unforgiving blue water drew nearer, Jones felt his muscles tense, bracing for a fatal impact. "Right before impact I realized that this was a bad idea," said Jones, 35. Jones crashed feet-first into the water, the force ripping his clothes from his body. He briefly lost consciousness, and he thought he was dead. As he surged to the surface, the image of his 17-month-old son, Braner, reawakened him. "I saw his eyes and I said, "There is no way I'm not going to make it to those rocks,' " Jones said. With fractured ribs and a collapsed left lung, Jones managed to swim to rocks some 40 yards away. "I was just happy to be alive. All my problems washed away in my mind," he said. When he reached the rocks, Jones could feel the intense pain from his injured ribs. He could not raise his arms above his shoulders. He only hoped that help would come. "I thought to myself, "I really did it this time,' " Jones said. Help arrived minutes later from the St. Petersburg Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard. Jones was rushed to Bayfront Medical Center, where he remains under 24 hour supervision. The fall also ruptured his spleen and fractured a vertebra in his neck, which requires him to wear a halo for the next two months. Jones said his brush with death has helped him realize the preciousness of life and the importance of his role in the lives of his four children. "I was ashamed of myself because I don't want my kids to grow up without a father like I did," said Jones, who called the St. Petersburg Times to tell his story. "I care a hell of alot now if I live or not." Jones said it was a lack of knowledge about his father that ultimately pushed him to consider killing himself. An inventor, Jones has been looking for his father for years, but has found no information about him. A last-ditch effort toget a picture of his father turned up empty, pushing Jones into a depressed state. A Father's Day card that Jones carries around for sentimental value was found in the 1972 Ford pickup truck that he drove to the span of the bridge. Jones said matters only got worse when he and his girlfriend broke up the night before. "Without love, it's like someone pulled the plug on life," said Jones. "I didn't care whether I lived or died." Jones says financial difficulties put a further strain on the relationship with his girlfriend. All of his money and time was devoted to working on his inventions, he said. "It was like pulling teeth. As an inventor, you either make it or starve, and I was starving," said Jones, who in 1999 received a patent for an invention called the Sock Locker, designed to keep pairs of socks together while being washed. He sold the idea to Viable Products L.C. in Tampa. Jones said the combination of personal and professional difficulties took him to the top of the bridge where, in recent years, as many as a dozen people a year have jumped to their deaths. The number rose from six in 1996 to eight in1997, then to 12 in 1998 and 1999. The Skyway has the reputation of being a magnet for suicides. It's the third-deadliest bridge in the country for suicides, after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and San Diego's Coronado Bridge. Jones is among a rare few who survived. Records show that five people have survived their leaps since the bridge opened in 1987. Given a second chance, Jones says he will stop his search for his father and focus on being a father himself. After being released from the hospital, Jones plans to move in with his sister in Missouri, where he can try to piece things back together. His passion, however, remains inventing. "I am what I am," said Jones. "I wouldn't give up inventing for anything."
08.21.01: full article
09.09.01, cnn.com, Suicide Attempt Helps Florida Man Bond With His Father
Aired September 9, 2001 - 08:46 ET
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Back in May, depression led a Florida man to the brink of suicide, and then over the edge. But Hanns Jones survived that attempt and today he is grateful for it, because it may help him repair a relationship with his father, a man he never really knew.
This is a great story. Hanns Jones joins us now to talk about all of this, from Tampa. Along with Lynn-Marie Carty, who is founder of ReunitePeople.com. Thank you both for being here this morning.
LYNN-MARIE CARTY, REUNITEPEOPLE.COM: Thanks for having us.
MCEDWARDS: Hanns, we know that you had terrible injuries in your fall. How are you doing now?
HANNS JONES, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE: Before I say anything, I'd like to say thank you to the Holiday Inn and Gators on the Pass at Treasure Island. I'm doing quite well. Remarkable recovery. This is a halo, it's going to have to be on for a couple of more weeks, so...
MCEDWARDS: Take us back, Hanns, to that day in May, I mean, what was it that took you to that bridge and made you decide to jump?
JONES: I had a bad hair day. No, there was a lot of things going on in my life that, you know, kind of brought along things to that point. You know, I don't know that I can say that it was really any one thing in particular.
MCEDWARDS: Was it about your, the relationship you didn't have with your dad?
JONES: I don't, I don't -- no, I can't really say that. I've always wanted to meet my father and that's something that has been very important to me. I had a broken relationship as far as, you know, with my girlfriend, there were things that were going on. A lot of stress in general. I would say I fell in love.
MCEDWARDS: Oh, dear. You make this jump. People see you jump. And the way I see it described in the news stories here, you literally decide on your way down that this is not a good idea. You swim to shore? Tell me about that.
JONES: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, the will to live is a powerful thing, you know. MCEDWARDS: Well, what was it that made you decide you wanted to live?
JONES: Well, being alive is sweet. You know, it was really a beautiful moment in the sense that you're right there where it's all going to be taken away, it's all going to be gone, and you change your mind. I just, you know, I'm an important person in the sense that my life matters to other people and, you know, it gave me a sense that life matters to me. So, yeah, 200 feet and I swam to the shore and climbed on the rocks and waved down the Coast Guard. It sounds pretty incredible...
MCEDWARDS: Yeah, it's astounding, Hanns. And then Lynn-Marie, who is there beside you, finds out about you how? Lynn-Marie, can you tell us how you two came together?
CARTY: Well, I read about Hanns Jones on the front page of our local newspaper and I just was compelled to -- I realized that if anybody could find his dad, ReunitePeople.com would be able to locate him and I went to the hospital to visit Hanns and as soon as we met, I really could see that he had a lot of living to do and we were on a mission. And I knew our team of investigators would be able to locate his dad.
So, within six days we were able to call Hanns and let him know that we just spoke to his father.
MCEDWARDS: Well, Lynn-Marie, how did you find his father in six days? I imagine that's not typical of most cases.
CARTY: Well, in this particular case, I worked with all of our team on it around the clock to be able to locate him in such a short amount of time. On a normal case, sometimes it will take us a few weeks, maybe four weeks. We're at the point right now where a lot of cases, we're able to be a court-appointed intermediaries, where we get adoption files opened.
But in this particular case, we just did a lot of searching and a lot of looking and we wanted to make sure that we were able to find him as soon as possible so that Hanns could realize that the community and whole nation is in support of him. We just wanted him to have another chance.
MCEDWARDS: Well, and, Hanns, how do you feel about that? Now that your father has been found, you've had this support?
JONES: Oh, grateful is the word. Yeah, there is more to it. On my birth certificate, the dates of my, the age of my father is actually two years off and there was no social security number, no service number. You know, it was essentially looking for a needle in a haystack. I mean, I had looked for about ten years, so six days is kind of a miracle.
MCEDWARDS: Yeah, it sure sounds like it. Well, thank you both. We've got to leave it there, but I understand your reunion with your father happens Monday and we wish you well, Hanns, really. Thank you both.
JONES: Thank you very much.
CARTY: Thank you for having us. Thank you very much.
By Michael Kruse, Times Staff Writer, ST. PETERSBURG:
One early evening 8 1/2 years ago, Hanns Jones, 35, lovelorn and broke, parked his purple pickup truck at the top of the Sunshine Skyway bridge and dived 197 feet toward his almost certain death in the tropical blue of Tampa Bay.
People sometimes think that to jump off a bridge in a beautiful place is a more beautiful way to die. It's a lie.
You feel for a moment like you're floating. That moment ends. Then you're falling, survivors say, and then you're accelerating, and before you can think about how fast you're accelerating you crash into the water. You don't splash. You crash.
From the center span of the skyway, you hit the water in about 3 1/2 seconds, and by that time you're going approximately 75 mph. Your clothes are ripped off, and your innards are torn apart. You typically bleed to death on the inside, or you drown, or both.
On May 30, 2001, when Hanns hit the water shortly after 5, his spleen burst, his left lung collapsed, and he broke ribs on both sides and fractured the C7 vertebra in his neck. Under the surface, where it was no longer pretty and light, but murky and dark, his eyes opened wide.
Two Coast Guard boats went looking for a body.
Instead, they found Hanns, some 40 yards from where he had gone in, sitting on some rocks around the base of one of the bridge's concrete pillars, naked.
A rescuer looked down at him, and looked up at the bridge, and asked if he had just jumped.
He said yes.
The rescuer asked him if he was okay.
He said no.
It would be another five years before he scribbled on a piece of paper the words LIFE SAVER PROJECT.
How did Hanns get here?
He moved often when he was young: born in Texas, lived in California, Missouri, Florida. He never knew his father. His mother got divorced twice.
He's dyslexic. He dropped out in the 10th grade. He can fix a lawn mower or paint a house better than he can read or write. Job applications give him problems.
He has had jobs, here and there, over the years: sandblaster, groundskeeper, strip club bathroom man. He lived in his van for a while. He's a drinker.
His natural line of thought is the daydream.
"You know how sometimes you're watching a movie, and someone says your name, and you're like, 'What? What? What?' " he said one recent afternoon in his home in south St. Petersburg.
That, he said, is what he's like all the time.
But that's not all bad, he said: "If everybody was paying attention to the same thing, nothing would ever be invented."
Before he jumped, his biggest invention, and what he thought was going to be his big break, was a Velcro contraption that kept socks together in the washer and dryer. Go to socklocker.com. His idea. But he got pushed out by his partners and investors because they say he was hard to work with.
By the spring of '01, he had no job, no money. He had a son and a daughter in Missouri and a son in Orlando that he didn't see or support. He had a swollen face from a wicked toothache that he couldn't afford to fix.
And one night he had a fight with the woman he was living with, Chi Le, the mother of his fourth child, a son, then an infant. He put his hands around her neck and pushed her against a wall.
He spent that night in a cheap hotel in Clearwater, he said. He drove by to talk to Chi the next day, and that didn't go well at all. So he drove to the bridge. And he paid his toll.
He wanted to live as soon as he tried to die.
He swam toward the rocks, half a football field away, with a broken neck, and was picked up and taken in an ambulance to nearby Bayfront hospital.
Chi got a call from a doctor. She waited a day before she went to see Hanns.
"Too angry," she said years later.
Hanns spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. He spent a couple of months with his sister in Missouri. He wrote Chi love letters. She didn't write back. They talked some on the phone.
When he returned to Florida, they got back together, then split up, then got back together again, and eventually had a second son. They've stayed together since.
Now he's an inventor with a second chance. And his latest invention is a device he hopes will give others the same.
It came to him a couple of years back, he said, "just this explosion in my head."
It's the E.S.R. That's short for the Electro Safety Rail. It's a metal guard that would be rigged on top of the skyway's short concrete wall and shock people who pulled on it not enough to kill them, but enough to stop them.
The sketches of his LIFE SAVER PROJECT are here.
"I'm not accidentally alive," he said one evening at his home, sitting next to the rough prototype, "and it's no accident that I'm a United States inventor.
"I don't want to be known as the guy who jumped off that bridge," he added. "I want to be known as the guy who stops anybody else from jumping off that bridge."
It's a long shot.
Some bridges have suicide barriers. Most do not.
The skyway, the long, picturesque landmark that connects Pinellas and Manatee counties, is the nation's fourth-most-frequent suicide bridge. For the past decade or so, it has had surveillance cameras, red-button "crisis" phones and a state trooper who patrols the bridge at all times. In the past 10 years essentially since those "life-saving" tactics came to be at least 81 people have jumped (probably more, but sometimes they just disappear and are never found) and 11 lived.
Physical barriers are expensive, critics say, or ugly, or architecturally untenable. In the early '70s, authorities in San Francisco looked into different forms of barriers for the Golden Gate Bridge, including high-voltage laser beams. That was nixed because of the likelihood of possibly fatal jolts, and also just the general unseemliness of the idea.
"If I were a suicidal person," suicide expert Jerome Motto said on the phone, "I would not see that as a very compassionate way to help me.
"I am not aware," he said, "of any place in the world where an electrification process has been used."
And then there's Hanns.
He smokes a pack a day of Pall Malls. He drinks Natural Ice tall boys. The guy who works at the local drive-through beer joint knows what he wants.
He doesn't have a driver's license. He doesn't have a license because he owes child support.
Chi, whom he calls his wife although they aren't officially married, runs a company that connects landlords with low-income tenants, and Hanns helps fix up the houses.
They live in the main building of an old shotgun-style boardinghouse. It's in foreclosure.
One morning he took a smoke break from putting primer on walls and sat on the concrete stoop in front of a fixer-upper.
"I really think America's getting cheated that I'm not in a research lab somewhere, working night and day on the railing system," he said.
"Right now, I'm just stuck with my pen and my paper, scratching and pecking and drawing."
It's easy to dismiss him, and maybe with good reason, as a talker, not a doer, even an occasional ranter and raver. He sends lots of e-mails. He sends lots of Facebook messages. He talks and talks.
Sometimes he sounds like he thinks he's in a movie. He'll stand up all of a sudden. He'll get real melodramatic. He'll speak with a vaguely British accent.
Sometimes he sounds like he thinks he's in an infomercial: "You can help save lives!
He's "brilliant," and he's "passionate," said Charles Gelini, one of his former Sock Locker partners also, though, "a detriment to himself." He didn't want to take the product to market, Gelini said, just wanted to wait and wait, think and think. Never finish.
At the fixer-upper, the smoke break continued for most of the morning, and he kept saying he was supposed to be doing something.
"My imagination is boiling," he said. "There's so much left to create.
"I feel like a horse standing behind the race gates, and I can't get out."
He pounded his fist into his thigh.
It was quiet except for the breeze blowing through two tall Australian pines in the yard.
Second chances are only that. Not the first. Still just a chance.
"I thought it was a doorway to somewhere else," Hanns said of those 197 feet down. "I didn't know where.
"Now," he said, "I think it's here."
Here: He's 44 and still broke. He still drinks. He still owes child support. He has an idea, and some drawings, and a small prototype. He wrote the governor asking for his support.
"Dear Sir," he wrote. "You are a great Gov. Please Take a look at this. United States Inventor H.F. Jones. God be with you."
The response came from the Office of Citizen Services: "Inventors such as yourself form the backbone of our nation's innovative history, and the Governor is glad that you have shared your thoughts with him."
He has his two sons who live with him here. He has Chi.
Hanns says they're in love. Chi says yes, true, but she also says this: "I still want to get rid of him sometimes. No relationship is perfect. But I am very thankful he's still alive."
"When you're a kid," Hanns said, "you're raised with this mind-set that you live happily ever after. No you don't."
But imperfection, disappointment, even heartbreak what he has come to realize is that those things aren't the same as meaninglessness. They're no reason to jump. Has he tried again? To kill himself?
"Heavens, no," he said.
It's interesting, too, to listen to him talk about God. He wrestles with it. He doesn't know what it is, but he knows that there's something larger than him or us, something that let him live.
"If you're out there in life, and if you're trying to care, it's like something cares back," he said. "If that's the God you're talking about, that's the God I'm talking about."
Add this, then, to the list of things he has: perspective.
When he jumped, he said, he was "a failed inventor."
The followup question was obvious if delicate: What are you now?
"I'm a success," Hanns said, "waiting to happen." (comments follow article, many of which are brutal.)
01.02.15, found this: listverse.com - suicide stories with an incredible happy ending.
|02.17.05, Lynn-Marie C., St. Petersburg, Florida, I read about Hanns Jones in the newspaper that day, went to see him at the hospital and told him I would find his Father. He had never met him, but had left that Father's Day card on the dashboard of his truck. In 6 days his father, Mr. Jones was located. About 6 months later Hanns flew out west and he and his Father were reunited. I was so happy for him! He still keeps in touch with us to this day, constantly expressing his gratitude for the chance to "see my Father's Eyes."|
|05.19.01: jumper, 06:00pm, male, no hotline phones, hit water, died
Justin Berrett, 21
05.20.01, St. Petersburg Times, Man commits suicide by jumping from bridge.
A man parked his car on the Sunshine Skyway bridge and jumped to his death Saturday night, according to the Florida
Highway Patrol. He has not been identified, said Lt. Bruce Doras. He was wearing orange shorts and no shirt. A boater pulled the body from the center of the channel after the suicide was reported at 7:14 p.m. But the man could not be revived by paramedics, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
05.21.01, St. Petersburg Times, Officials identify man who jumped from bridge.
TAMPA - Authorities have identified the man who they say jumped off the highest span of the Sunshine Skyway bridge to his death Saturday night. He is Justin Berrett, 21, of Longboat Key in Manatee County. Berrett's body, clad only in orange shorts, was pulled from the water under the bridge by a boater at 7:14 p.m. Saturday.
05.21.01, Bradenton Herald, MANATEE - A body recovered from Tampa Bay on Saturday was that of a 21-year-old computer technician for the Bradenton Herald, a Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman confirmed Sunday. The investigation into the death of Justin Berrett of Longboat Key continues pending final autopsy results, Sgt. Alan Hill said. The cause of death has not been released. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper reported finding Berrett's abandoned Dodge Durango on the center span of the Sunshine Skyway bridge about 6 p.m. Saturday. During the past two years, Berrett had made his mark as a computer technician at the Herald and his death shocked coworkers. "He was bright, full of life, just a kid who had everything going for him. He had almost a photographic memory when it came to computers. He was able to soak it all in and put it all together," said Information Systems Director Mike McNall, Berrett's mentor at the Herald. "He was way beyond his years in just dealing with technology and people. He was respected by people not only at the Herald but at Knight Ridder (the Herald's parent company). Guys at corporate would ask him questions. He was very respected by a large group of people," McNall said. Berrett was in line for a promotion, McNall said. "His knowledge far exceeded his job title and position. He was totally psyched about being promoted." Funeral arrangements were incomplete Sunday.
|06.16.07, Kim, Longboat Key, FL., Justin Berrett Was my
brother. They spelled his name wrong in the article. Could you please correct
this? It's Justin Berrett, not Barrett. Thanks. (done.)
He and I grew up on Longboat Key and lived with my mom and grandmother. My mom
told me about this website and I thought I would add a few things about him. He
and I were on the outs for many years, but I still loved him. He called alomst
all of his relatives a week before he jumped jsut to say "Hi". The last thing he
said to me was that I was a disappointment to the family and that I needed to
get on with my life. I lived in Utah at the time and was going to school at Utah
State University. He was dating a girl named Tiffany who wore Hot pink to the
funeral. She broke up with him right before he jumped. I personally blame her.
She stole his CD's out of the car when we were at the funeral parlor making
arrangements for his funeral. What a bitch. Some of the CDs I gave him were in
there too. He left 5 suicide notes. All very incoherrant. He was intoxicated. He
left the engine running. He wore his bathing suit. The day before he went up
there and called Diana B. (last name deleted.) who
apparently talked him off of the bridge. He said "I can see the waves, I can't
do it when I can see the waves." He spent the next day at adventure island with
Diana and other friends and then jumped that evening. Why didn't she tell
anyone. She didn't think he was serious I'm sure, but its all over now. My mom
didn't take the news well. None of us did. i was crying so hard in the airport
from Utah to Florida that they bumped me and my mom up to first class. I've
never been in first class before this happened. I miss him and even though it
was 6 years ago It still feels like it just happened. I miss him.
(we are sorry for your family's loss. it's one of those
things that never goes away. it gets redundant to constantly point this out to
those thinking about suicide, but what more can we say. thanks for the story.
hang in there, kim.)
04.14.08, Diana B., Bradenton Fl., I have known about this site for many years but have not visited in a long time. I wish to make a few corrections regarding the death of Justin Berrett. His siter Kim left some words a year or two ago. Some of the events are not accurrate. She mentioned that I talked him off the bridge. True, it was Thursday. We spent Friday night with a group of friends. Saturday he boated and I was not a part of this like she claims. I did tell someone about what happended Thursday against Justin's wishes. Justin also told me he told his grandmother he was having suicidal thoughts. Justin told me he had an appointment with a Doctor on Monday. I did feel a sense of reposponsibility to say something. At 21 years old we are not equipped to deal with such heavy situations effectively. When Justin told me he was seeking medical help, I believed him. We had contact every single day for years and he had never lied to me. Why would I think this any different? It was just as much a shock to me as everyone else. But please don't think I sat idlely by and did nothing. When it comes down to it, if someone wants to end their life, they will find a way. (we are sure this was very traumatic for you. it was not up to you to read his mind and determine what his intentions were. he was a troubled man and in the end, he made up his mind to jump all by himself. it's apparent that many knew he was suicidal. how many of them feel like they could of done something? just what could they have done? 24 hour suicide watch? how long can that go on? even if you talked him into jumping, it still would not be your fault. the suicidal always calls the shots at self-death and only they are to blame. we wish you well.)
|04.01.01: jumper, 11:13pm, female, no hotline phones, hit water, died
Iwona J. Rozanski, 37
St. Petersburg Times, Woman who jumped from Skyway identified.
The person who jumped to her death late Sunday from the Sunshine Skyway bridge has been identified as a 37-year-old Oldsmar woman. Coast Guard searchers found the body of Iwona J. Rozanski of [address withheld] about 8 a.m. Monday, 4 miles southwest of the bridge, said Petty Officer Harry Craft. The Florida Highway Patrol was notified about 11 p.m. Sunday about an abandoned car on the bridge, Craft said. The patrol found a woman's purse and a set of keys on the front seat.
|03.20.01: jumper, 2:30pm, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
William R. Copeland, 78
St. Petersburg Times, ST. PETERSBURG -- About 2:40 p.m., authorities started
to get phone calls about a 1999 Dodge van that had been abandoned at the top of
the Skyway. Its engine was running, and a door was open. As police drove to
check it out, the U.S. Coast Guard was contacted by a boater who had seen a body
in the channel beneath the bridge, according to Pinellas County Emergency
Medical Services. A rescue boat found a man's body shortly before 4 p.m., said
Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. No one saw the man
jump. Authorities had not positively identified the body by Tuesday night.
03.23.01, St. Petersburg Times, Skyway jumper identified as Fort Myers man, 78. Police have identified the man who jumped to his death from the Sunshine Skyway bridge on Tuesday as William R. Copeland, 78, of Fort Myers. Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators say Copeland parked his 1999 Dodge van on the southbound side of the Skyway's center span about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. He left the van running with the keys in the ignition, got out and jumped.
|03.10.01: jumper, 11:30pm, male, no hotline
phones, hit water, died
Raymond Cutler, 38
03.12.01, Bob S., Tampa, FL.: I was fishing on Skyway Fishing pier. A ton of firetrucks and cops showed up, one paramedic said there was a jumper and they were looking for the body. There was also a white Ford pickup truck parked at the top of the bridge.
St. Petersburg Times, ST. PETERSBURG -- The body of a St. Petersburg man
believed to have jumped from the Sunshine Skyway bridge was found in Tampa Bay
early Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported. The man's identity has not been
released, pending notification of his family. A motorist saw the man jumping
from the bridge about 11:30 p.m. Saturday and called authorities. The man's car
was found at the top of the bridge. The body was found about 9:45 a.m. Sunday,
Coast Guard Petty Officer Dave Cameron said.
tbo.com, Witness saw him jumping. Car found at top of center span. Body recovered next day.
|07.11.15, A.C., Dallas, TX., This jumper was my
Uncle - who I miss dearly. He was such a wonderful and kind hearted person. I
don't know what happened. I was only 16 at the time... so, not really all that
aware of the adult life (or challenges that come with it). I come to this site a
lot - I still think it is because I am looking for answers, why? Also, just...
there is so much he is missing, and a lot of people who still miss him to the
point that their hearts hurt. Sometimes, I want to go stand there and look over,
see what he saw. I wouldn't because I would probably slip like a clumsy fool -
but, why wasn't that view enough to make him think twice? Are there any common
issues or medical conditions that these victims (jumpers) have in common?
Anyhow, I don't know what to think of this site - I know every time I come here
I cry. I'm not mad at y'all though. Even if it is a little dry/plain factual
based (kind of lessens the human aspect). I just wonder if it is only family and
friends of the victims/jumpers that come here... I want everyone to know that
you are not alone. (we are sorry you lost your uncle and
more so that you continue to hurt as you do. we have been running this site
since 1998 and we still have no firm grip as to why people jump off the bridge.
the only common denominator is the obvious fact they can no longer cope with
life. we can only guess as to why. most appear to have inner turmoil that became
overwhelming, perhaps because of an abusive family scenario or other
relationship, and/or a total breakdown of their life, leaving them to believe
death is their only solution. some do so because of a lost love or lost job. some
because of terminal illness and/or continuous pain and suffering. we also think
some are driven to suicide due to the headmeds they are given. "suicidal
thoughts" is a common effect of these headmeds. we are mostly perplexed by the
young people, seemingly living normal lives, only to terminate those young lives
by jumping off the bridge. parents that take the leap, leaving very young
children behind, like this one, are
also very confusing. being as we are never contacted before the jump, we can
only piece together bits and pieces of what may have been at issue, from people
that write in afterwards. many friends and family do write in. some add their
kind words, others, not so kind. your uncle was relatively young and we have
zero clue why he decided to end his life at 38. we can only guess it was one of
the reasons we just mentioned. while we don't need to know the reason, we feel
knowing may help others that also feel the solution of self-inflicted death is
their only option to end their suffering. thank you for your input. be well and hang in
08.06.22, Jade C., Revere, MA., This jumper was my dad. He jumped when I was just a child and I discovered this website during my online research attempts to discover anything about him that I could. I was always left with nothing but the words from every person that knew him personally. He was the best man and they would have never expected him to do it. This website came to me when I was maybe 13/14 and for some reason it made me feel a little better knowing his presence is still out and accounted for in the world somewhere. Growing up without a dad is so incredibly hard in ways that nobody prepares you for. Like never having a stable male figure in your life, or my mom not having any help with me and my sister, or that weird feeling of what do I say when someone asks me about my dad. That feeling started at a really young age. Its also incredibly hard watching what it does to your mom over time. At first she seems like she handled herself well but the reality really sets in over time and you can see in her face, as you age, just how hard this was for her and for my family and friends that loved him so so much. My grandparents would cry when describing him or telling me stories about how wild he was. Same with my aunts and uncles and friends of his. I dont know what leads people to make this jump, but he must not have seen the way he touched people. I used to hold a lot of resentment and confusion on how he could just leave us like that, but over time I let that go and felt real sadness for him because he really missed out on us and we missed out on him. An unfortunate situation but a lot to be learned. I love him. (you paint a picture of a family in continued distress, over the loss of a family member through suicide. two decades later, there's still sad suffering. there are no words to satisfy the question, "why?". we truly hope you and your family continue to cope.)
|02.28.01: jumper, 2:00am, female, no hotline phones, hit water, lives
Julie Nieves, 59
|Hillsborough Sheriff, the jumper was Julie Nieves, 59, Largo, Fl., On February 28, 2001, Ms. Nieves apparently drove her vehicle onto the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, northbound, and struck the retaining wall approximately 6/10 of a mile south of the center span. The Florida Highway Patrol discovered her vehicle, abandoned. The Coast Guard and the Sheriffs Marine Unit began a search for driver of the vehicle. At 10:00 a.m., a crabber discovered Ms. Nieves, alive, approximately 1.6 miles south of the bridge in the bay. She was treated for hypothermia and transported to Bayfront Medical Center. She was held under the Baker Act by investigators. At the location where the vehicle crashed, there is a 50 foot drop to the water line. Investigators have been unable to determine if the victim jumped off the bridge intentionally or fell off accidentally.|
|03.01.01, St. Petersburg Times, A Largo woman survived after either falling or jumping 50 feet off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and then treading water for about six hours Wednesday. A crabber found the 59-year-old woman in the bay about 1.6 miles south of the bridge. She was treated for hypothermia and transported to Bayfront Medical Center. She will be forced to undergo psychiatric treatment under Florida's Baker Act. But authorities say they don't know whether the woman jumped or fell. Though Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators have spoken with her, she hasn't helped them unravel the mystery, said Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Lt. Rod Reder. "She's not helping," he said. "She wasn't making sense." The Times typically does not identify people committed under the Baker Act. Deputies said the chain of events began early Wednesday morning when the woman apparently drove her vehicle onto the bridge and struck a retaining wall about six-tenths of a mile south of the center span. Florida Highway Patrol troopers found her vehicle about 4:10 a.m. and looked on the bridge, but found no sign of the woman. The U.S. Coast Guard and the sheriff's marine unit were summoned to search the waters. They found no sign of her. The crabber found the woman about 10 a.m. Reder said there is about a 50-foot drop to the water in the area where the woman is thought to have gone over the bridge.|
|02.13.01: Panicked pooch plunges off Skyway, lives
Maggie May Blakeley, 5
sptimes.com, Maggie May travels a lot. But she'd never been on a trip quite
By LEANORA MINAI
Maggie May, a boxer mix who rides everywhere in the car, was contentedly sitting in the back seat Tuesday when chaos broke out on the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
Her northbound car, beginning its ascent of the center span, was clipped from behind by another vehicle, ejecting Maggie out the window and into a whir of traffic.
Panicked, the 5-year-old family pet jumped 50 feet into the waters of Tampa Bay.
"Where's Maggie?" owner and Arcadia resident Kathy Blakeley shouted as she searched the bridge. "Where's my dog?"
Maggie was treading 20-foot deep water for all she was worth. A fisherman hunting for bait spotted a brown head bobbing in the bay. At first he thought it was a person. He looked through his binoculars.
"I saw the dog swimming around in a circle," said fisherman Kenny Hyatt, who works at Rodbenders in Tampa.
No other boats were around. Hyatt motored over to Maggie and pulled her 87-pound body onto the boat.
"She would have been toast," said Hyatt, 27.
Cut and bleeding, Maggie was not limping. She sat with her tail between her legs at the front of the boat. Her owners shouted to her from the bridge.
"That's our baby!" called Mrs. Blakeley's husband, Dennis Blakeley, 52.
"She would have drowned in that water," his wife said.
The incident began at 9:50 a.m. in the northbound lanes of Interstate 275, 2 miles south of the bridge's center span.
Mrs. Blakeley, 40, was driving her husband, a Vietnam veteran, to the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines. They were in their 1993 Hyundai, and Mrs. Blakeley switched from her lane because of road work, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
As she changed lanes, a 1997 Toyota truck driven by Matthew Kitchie of Palmetto struck the back of their car.
The FHP cited both drivers, saying Mrs. Blakeley made an improper lane change, and 23-year-old Kitchie was speeding.
The $90 ticket didn't matter to the Blakeleys.
"It's just a miracle that Maggie made it," said Mrs. Blakeley, who named Maggie after the Rod Stewart song.
They were renuited at O'Neill's Marina, where Maggie wagged her tail at the sight of her owners. Dennis Blakeley bent over and examined Maggie's face.
"Hi, little girl," he said. "It's Daddy. Go see Mom."
Mrs. Blakeley tried to get her to drink water from a cup. But Maggie was more interested in sniffing the nearby puddles.
From now on, Maggie will be strapped in a doggie seat belt, which is sold at local pet stores and on the Internet. Said Mrs. Blakeley: "There's no doubt about that."
Maggie's adventure evoked comparisons to another dog that survived a fall from the Skyway -- a Rottweiler named Shasta who dropped nearly 200 feet from the center span when her owner jumped to his death in May 1998. It was never known whether the dog followed her master or went involuntarily.
Shasta became an international sensation, with more than 50 people trying to adopt her. The dog now lives in the spacious home of an animal lover on Indian Rocks Beach.
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