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40 years ago this week (May 9, 1980) Tampa Bay witnessed one of the most tragic horrors in the nation’s history when a ship measuring more than 600 feet hit the Skyway bridge.

On the morning of May 9, 1980, a cargo ship, Summit Venture, was being navigated by Captain John Lerro through the 58.4-mile channel that leads to the Port of Tampa. The weather was working against him, he fought 60 mile-per-hour winds with fog and rain.

The Summit Venture fought 60 mile-per-hour winds along with blinding fog and rain as Lerro attempted to bring the cargo ship through the bridge’s pillars. But the winds had shifted and pushed the freighter into the bridge in the thick of rush hour. He hit one of the pillars while trying to pass through the skyway bridge.

These are the victims of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Disaster:

  • Duane Adderly, 21, of Miami
  • Alphonso Blidge, 22, of Miami
  • Myrtle Brown, 58, of St. Johns, Newfoundland
  • Willis Brown, 57, of St. Johns, Newfoundland
  • John Callaway Jr., 19, of Miami
  • John Carlson, 47, of Pinellas Park
  • Doris Carlson, 42, of Pinellas Park
  • Leslie Coleman Jr., 52, of St. Petersburg
  • Charles Collins, 40, of Tampa
  • Michael Curtin, 43, of Apollo Beach
  • Laverne Daniels, 20, of Miami
  • Sandra Davis, 34, of Boardman
  • Hildred Dietch, 73, of St. Petersburg
  • Harry Dietch, 68, of St. Petersburg
  • Sharon Dixon, 21, of Miami
  • Brenda Green, 19, of Miami
  • Robert Harding, 63, of Glens Falls, N.Y.
  • Gerda Hedquist, 92, of Charlotte Harbor
  • Aubrey Hudson, 62, of St. Johns, Newfoundland
  • Phyllis Hudson, 58, of St. Johns, Newfoundland
  • Louise Johnson, 59, of Cataula, Ga.
  • Yvonne Johnson, 22, of Perrine
  • Horace Lemmons, 47, of Kings Mountain, N.C.
  • Lillian Loucks, 69, of Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Louis Lucas Jr., 62, of Dolomite, Ala.
  • Marguerite Mathison, 82, of St. Petersburg
  • Manesha McGarrah, 7 months, of Tallahassee
  • Wanda McGarrah, 24, of Tallahassee
  • Tawana McClendon, 20, of Palmetto
  • Ann Pondy, 57, of Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • James Pryor, 42, of Seminole
  • Melborne Russell, 38, of Chicago, Iill.
  • Delores Smith, 50, of Pennsville, N.J.
  • Robert Smith, 37, of Pennsville, N.J.
  • Woodrow Triplett, 33, of Bainbridge, Ga.


This is the actual distress signal recording from that fateful morning.

Construction of the bridge we have now began in 1982 and ended in 1987. Security and safety measures were implemented so that an accident like the one in 1980 never happens again. It stands at 29,040-feet long and 190 feet above the water.

To this day, the new Skyway is considered one of America’s engineering marvels!

Sunshine Skyway Bridge - St Petersburg, FL

Aerial of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, shot by Tampa Photographer The Skyway Bridge connects St Petersburg and Pinellas Co...

There is now a documentary following the tragedy and Captain John Lerro incredible guilt that followed him through life. It was released this past April and you can watch the trailer below:

The Skyway Bridge Disaster Trailer 2019

Skyway Bridge Productions presents The Skyway Bridge Disaster documentary.


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