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Man, 19, lost off Skyway bridge

He may have jumped during an argument on his mobile phone.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 30, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - A 19-year-old Palm Harbor man may have jumped off the Sunshine Skyway bridge early Saturday while he was arguing with someone on his mobile phone.

The Coast Guard called off the search for Dustin Benson about 1:30 p.m. after several marine units and a helicopter were unable to locate him.

Benson and four friends had been drinking and fishing before "he stepped off the bridge" during the argument, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which is involved in the investigation.

"We believe it could have been a suicide," said Carter.

She did not have any additional information, including the identity of the person with whom Benson was arguing or the nature of the argument.

The bridge is up to 75 feet high at the point Benson either fell or jumped from the northbound lanes of the span.

At its highest point, the Sunshine Skyway is about 200 feet high.