Barely four months into the year, seven people have committed suicide by jumping off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
That compares with eight suicides on the bridge for all of 1997, and local agencies are considering installing telephones on the bridge that would connect to a suicide hotline."If we do nothing, we continue to allow people to commit suicide without the chance of making contact with help," said Jerry Vaz-quez, president of the Crisis Center of Hillsborough County.
"Most people have a temporary problem. If they pick up a phone and we can get someone up there to talk to them, there's a 99 percent chance they won't jump," said Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Stan Doss, who oversees suicide prevention efforts.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office suggested putting barriers on the Skyway but has been told they would be unattractive and expensive, Doss said.
The latest suicide at the 4.1-mile-long bridge over Tampa Bay was Sunday. William David Chester, a 41-year-old Sarasota truck driver with a history of drug abuse, stopped at the toll plaza, handed a worker his watch, wallet and a note with his address, then drove to the top.
"We used to go fishing down at the pier there," said his grandmother, Alvera Walker. "I think he just started thinking about his problems and felt desperate."