Help is available to everyone, chief says after man's suicide along Tampa bridge

Police in Tampa say a person found burning and hanging from a Sulphur Springs bridge was suicidal, and they are urging the community to be especially sensitive about mental health this holiday season.

Wednesday afternoon, police responded to the Rowlett Park bridge after a call about a man on fire and hanging from the span. Officers and firefighters lowered him to the river and tried to save him, but the man was pronounced dead at Tampa General Hospital.

Bystander video from the scene immediately spread across social media, with some commenters expressing concern that the man was the victim of a horrific crime.

Tampa police don’t often comment about suicide responses out of deference to those involved, and they did not name the man in this case. But a TPD spokesperson said Chief Brian Dugan and the man’s family both approved the release of some details about his death because of “the concern of the public.”

“While this remains an active investigation, the concerns for those in mental health crisis are in the public interest,” TPD spokesman Eddy Durkin noted.

Police say evidence collected at the scene suggested the man’s actions were indeed part of an intentional suicide, and “interviews with the family regarding the mental health history and prior actions of the 35-year-old support this conclusion.”

TPD has an ongoing partnership with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to help families of those involved in cases like this, and the chief pointed out that those services are available to anyone at any time – especially now.

"This tragedy is an additional trauma for the family, the responding officers, paramedics, and the community who were witnesses,” Dugan offered. “With the holiday season upon us, loneliness, and pandemic fatigue are even greater concerns for those in mental health crisis. 

“It is important we look out for our family, our neighbors, and each other. Help can be a phone call away, whether you call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or call 911 in an imminent emergency, someone is there to answer your call.”

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.