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Experienced jumper missing after plunge from causeway bridge

Craig Hill, 25, made the 74-foot jump on Sunday.

By Times Staff Writers
Published November 28, 2007


CLEARWATER - Craig Hill, 25, had jumped from small bridges in Pinellas County, waterfalls in North Carolina and on 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.

His friend, Todd Payne Jr., decided not to jump after watching Hill take the plunge, which authorities believe killed him. As of Monday, searchers had not found his body. At its highest point, near where he jumped, the bridge is 74 feet high. The channel beneath it is about 20 feet deep.

Jonathan Abel, Times staff writer

Clearwater Beach

Wit, compassion marked restaurateur, civic leader

Restaurateur and civic leader Bob Heilman Sr. died Monday (Nov. 26, 2007) at Westchester Gardens nursing home in Clearwater. He was 86.

Thousands of Pinellas County residents celebrated their birthdays and anniversaries at Bob Heilman's Beachcomber, known for its fried chicken and comfortable atmosphere.

And Mr. Heilman was as much a part of the ambience as the extensive wine list. He was compassionate and funny. And he loved to play jokes. That, his friends say, is how they hope he's remembered.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Chapel by the Sea on Clearwater Beach.

Mike Donila, Times staff writer

Palm Harbor

Challengers take aim at Bilirakis' House seat

Nearly a year before the 2008 general election, candidates are mobilizing to challenge U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, for the congressional seat his family has held for more than two decades.

Democrats Michael van Hoek and Bill Mitchell, as well as a member of the Term Limits Party, Richard Emmons have announced their intention to run for Bilirakis' District 9 U.S. House seat, which was formerly occupied by his father, Michael Bilirakis. District 9 spans northern Pinellas, western Pasco and suburban Hillsborough counties.

Elena Lesley, Times staff writer

PALM HARBOR

Facelifts begin at Innisbook Resort

When billionaire Sheila Crump Johnson rolled into town in July and bought the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, she promised residents major changes.

During the past 90 days, $1.7-million in renovations have been completed on one of the resort's four golf courses. The Island Course was overseeded to make the turf more lush and lengthened to 7,310 yards, with a par of 71. New cart paths were laid, and the course got new signs, bunkers, irrigation, trees and landscaping.

In the next 12 to 18 months, the new owners say $20-million worth of upgrades will be completed at Innisbrook, which will host the PGA Tours PODS Championship in March. Those upgrades will include a spa and a 4,000-square-foot fitness center with studios and locker rooms.

In addition, all of Innisbrook's 65,000 square feet of meeting space, along with the three clubhouses, will get facelifts.

Demorris A. Lee, Times staff writer