Off-duty Manatee Co. deputy stops man from jumping off Skyway Bridge

A Manatee County deputy saved a suicidal man from possibly jumping from the Skyway Bridge.

“There was a reason I was there. There was a reason why he was there and it worked out,” said Deputy Tara Barge.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tara Burge was off duty May 1. She and a friend were driving over the Skyway Bridge when she saw a man walking up the bridge, naked. 

Clearly, something was very wrong.

“He just said he wanted to die he was ending his life, he wanted to die. It was too late, please leave him alone,” Burge recalled.

Despite her best efforts, he put both hands on the ledge and was about to jump. That’s when deputy Barge made a request.

“I said, ‘Give me your phone. Let me have your phone so I can at least get ahold of your mom since I’m going to be the last person that sees you alive,’” Burge said. “He lifted one hand off the bridge and went to hand me the phone and I just took the opportunity. I grabbed his wrist, and grabbed him away from the bridge, and said I’m not going to let you do this. I cannot let you do this.”

Eventually, an FHP trooper arrived to take over.

“The thing that was on my mind, I couldn’t imagine this happening to somebody's son,” Burge said.

This week, Burge was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for her bravery and quick thinking.

“We're all here for a reason. We can all do something to help somebody and that’s the greatest feeling in the world,” she said.

Earlier that night, Burge recalled it took her a few extra minutes to find a parking spot. Those minutes possibly put her in the right place at the right time to save the man’s life.