Sunshine Skyway Bridge fences help prevent suicides


PINELLAS, Florida – It’s what many know as the beautiful gateway to Tampa Bay, but it also has a dark side. At 60 meters high, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is one of the best suicide bridges in the country.

It’s something Florida Highway Patrol corporal Tabarie Sullivan knows all too well.

“It was a very dramatic experience for both the subject and me,” said Sullivan.

said Sullivan in his three years as a patrol on the bridge; he met almost 30 jumpers. He said sometimes he was able to talk her down and sometimes he wasn’t.

“There were moments when they decided to kill themselves and get out,” Sullivan said.

More than 250 people have died jumping off the bridge since 1987; on average close to suicide per month. But that year there was only one suicidal death from the bridge.

“I think this has to do with fencing,” said Sullivan.

The construction of a 2.40 meter high fence lining both sides of the bridge has now been completed. Erected on the already existing concrete barrier; now the fence is a total of 11 feet high.

“It’s marine grade stainless steel that is very weather resistant and yet light enough not to obstruct the view of the bay,” said James Jacobsen, the project engineer.

Jacobsen said the purpose of the $ 3.4 million project, funded through the toll system, is to prevent people from jumping.

“It’s about three miles, about a mile and a half on each side, which is pretty much the water level of the bridge,” Jacobsen said.

The fence seems to be working already, but there are still phone booths on the bridge that call directly to the Tampa Bay Crisis Center.

“While this is an incredible barrier, if someone is suicidal, that alone won’t stop them,” said Clara Reynolds of the Tampa Bay Crisis Center. “It is so important for anyone in our community who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, who feels this feeling of despair or despair, that they know they can ask for help.”

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, call 2-1-1 in the Tampa Bay Area for help or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


About Ellen Lewandowski

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