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Cab driver who jumped off bridge faced cancer

55-year-old lacked money to fight his illness

Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A 55-year-old Juneau man who died Monday evening after leaping from the Douglas Bridge was facing cancer and didn't have the money to learn if surgery could help, according to the office manager at the cab company for which he drove.

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James P. Sullivan "was a real good guy," said Mike Laflin of Capital Cab. "When he got mad, he just would say, 'I'm mad.' He never spoke ill of anyone.

But Laflin said Sullivan had learned he had cancer and that it would cost him $10,000 just to find out if it was operable. Sullivan also had glaucoma, Laflin said. When he sought help paying for medical costs, he was told he would have to be destitute to receive public assistance, his boss added.

Police, who ruled the death a suicide, released Sullivan's identity early Tuesday after notifying relatives in Michigan. Witnesses said he jumped from the bridge into Gastineau Channel shortly before 7 p.m. Monday.

Boaters found Sullivan floating face-down after he jumped, and that they unsuccessfully tried to get him out of the water before a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat pulled him out, officers said.

Coast Guardsmen said Sullivan still had a pulse and that they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation before arriving at the dock and handing him over to Capital City Fire and Rescue emergency medical technicians.

They were unable to revive Sullivan, who was pronounced dead at 7:17 p.m., 26 minutes after his fall.

Laflin said everyone who knew Sullivan was in shock Tuesday morning when they heard it was he who had jumped from the bridge.

Others in Juneau's taxi community said they knew and liked Sullivan and were saddened by the news.

"We're thinking of doing something to remember him," said Shane Williams, owner of Evergreen Taxi. He suggested it might be fitting to put black ribbons on the antennae of the cabs.

"He was a very reasonable people person," Williams said.

Maria Miller, who drives for Juneau Taxi, described Sullivan as "a really nice guy."

Laflin said he understood Sullivan had been in Juneau for about 15 to 20 years.

"We had no way at all of knowing he would do this," he said. When Sullivan left the office Monday, Laflin said, he asked if a cab would be available when he returned.

Laflin said he heard on Tuesday that Sullivan had stopped for a hamburger after leaving work and had said he was going to kill himself.

Laflin said he wants raise money for funeral services. He plans to establish an account to take donations, he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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