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Did love cost man his life?
A search for a man who jumped off a bridge is now a recovery effort.
By JONATHAN ABEL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 27, 2007
Lynn Hill, center, watches rescue efforts for her son on the Memorial Causeway Bridge, from which Craig Hill jumped early Sunday.
[Douglas R. Clifford | Times]
Craig Hill, 25, loved the water, his parents said. They also said he struggled with alcohol.
CLEARWATER - Water never scared Craig Hill.
The 25-year-old had jumped from small bridges in Pinellas County as well as waterfalls in North Carolina.
Early Sunday, he and a friend decided they wanted to be the first ones to jump from the top of the Memorial Causeway Bridge, which connects downtown Clearwater to the beach.
Their motive was as puzzling as their plan.
"Craig said he wanted to be the first one to jump off the Clearwater bridge - he wanted to be called the king of Clearwater," mother Lynn Hill said she was told by police.
His friend, Todd Payne Jr., decided not to jump after watching Hill take the plunge. He called 911 immediately at 2:36 a.m.
Payne, intoxicated and distraught at the time, was committed for mental health observation under the state's Baker Act.
On Monday, Clearwater Fire Rescue boats and divers spent a second day searching for Hill, without success. By then, the rescue effort had switched to a body recovery mission, said public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts.
Hill is believed to have jumped from the middle span of the bridge, between markers 9 and 10, Daly-Watts said. At its highest point, near where he jumped, the bridge is 74 feet high. The channel beneath it is about 20 feet deep.
On Monday, Craig Hill's mother stood at the crest of the causeway, watching as workers looked for her son. Bill Hill, Craig's father, said it was too painful to be at the scene.
Bill Hill said his son loved to swim and fish and was at home on the water. He also harbored a passion for music, especially playing the guitar.
But the fun-loving young man struggled with alcohol, his parents said.
"He's had a problem for a while with partying too much," Bill Hill said. "He's been to every meeting and every type of counseling known to man. ... I've seen people all my life - they know they should change some of their habits, and they don't."
On Monday afternoon, he was still holding out hope his son had somehow survived and made it to shore, but he conceded that was unlikely.
Craig Hill and his fraternal twin, Michael, were born at Morton Plant Hospital. They lived in Dunedin until 1988 when the family moved to East Lake. The boys both graduated from Tarpon High in 2000.
Recently, Craig had been living at the Tropic Isle Motel on Clearwater Beach, where he worked as a maintenance employee. He also waited tables.
Investigators do not suspect foul play.
"He was a kind, loving person," Lynn Hill said, "who unfortunately didn't make the best choices."