I was teaching school the morning that “it” happened. Rain was pouring down, and the wind was blowing fiercely, unusual for May, our driest month in west-central Florida. I had forsaken riding my scooter to school because of the rain. The first alarming news was that the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was down. Surely that could not be possible, and fortunately it was not true, at least not totally true. The bridge spanning the long entrance to Tampa Bay, began in Pinellas County and stretched south to Manatee County.  The accident took place just after 7:30 a.m. The 600-foot cargo ship, the Summit Venture, was empty as it headed toward the Port of Tampa to take on a load of phosphate. A storm with winds estimated at 50 mph and pouring rain hit as the ship neared Tampa Bay. Visibility dropped to close to zero. As the ship approached the bridge, the support piling suddenly appeared directly in front of the ship. Captain John Lerro had thought the ship was hundreds of feet away from the pilings. Lerro ordered his crew to drop the anchor and reverse the engines, but it was too late. The ship hit a piling on the southern side and a bridge span fell into the water. The cars and a Greyhound bus either couldn’t see the yawning gap because of the poor visibility or were unable to stop. One driver saw what had happened and stopped his vehicle just 14 inches from the edge. The four people in the car jumped out, crawled to safety and began stopping other vehicles before they, too, plunged over the bridge. It took days for divers to recover all of the bodies of those who died in the accident. Since the accident, a new and higher bridge has replaced the old bridge with support pilings that should prevent another such accident from occurring.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge


About bobosbest

I am an 80-year-old retired English teacher whose writing goals are fulfilled by publishing these blogs. I have a wonderful married partner, Dimitris Tsitsiras, who is from Greece. Life is good and still an adventure.
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3 Responses to 5-9-80

  1. Makes my stomach churn just to look at the picture. I don’t much care for high bridges. A ferry? Is a ferry available?????

  2. Jana says:

    I’m not afraid of heights, but that bridge gives me pause every time. 🙂
    Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

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