Many people have superstitions about bridges or just get a nervous feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they have to cross one. If you’re one of those people, you will probably not enjoy crossing Florida’s beautiful but haunting Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The beauty of the bridge is undeniable.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge has been recognized for its scenic views crossing Tampa Bay, as well as its eye-catching design. It has been named one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, and it's even used as a backdrop in car commercials.
The view from the bridge is equally breathtaking.
What isn't immediately obvious from looking at this landmark, however, is the dark history behind the bridge and the ongoing problem that make one wonder whether the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is more appropriately labeled famous or infamous.
Photos of the bridge disaster on May 9, 1980:
The bridge you see today is not the first bridge with this name. The original bridge was built in the 1950s, with a second similar structure built in the early '70s to provide passage for double the traffic.
Car that was just barely spared in the disaster:
This second structure was heavily damaged on May 9, 1980, when a freighter struck the bridge during a thunderstorm. 35 people died when several cars and a Greyhound bus plummeted into the bay, making it the worst bridge disaster in Florida's history.
Photo from 1989, before the middle of the old bridge was removed:
The bridge also has another dark legacy that unfortunately is not in the past. It remains one of the most popular sites for public suicide in the United States. Since opening in 1987, the new bridge has seen over 200 people end their lives jumping into the Gulf waters. 51 people perished falling from the first Sunshine Skyway bridge during its three decades of operation, as well.
Emergency phones installed on the bridge:
The emergency phones you can see in this photo were installed in 1999, but they don't seem to have been very successful in reducing the number of deaths. Many have tried to discourage romanticizing the bridge by pointing out that it is far from a peaceful or painless way to die, and that more than many people over the years have made (unimaginably painful) unsuccessful attempts.