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skyway bridge accidents
updated: 02.06.14

accidents occur on and around the skyway bridge, before 2000.
accidents after 2000 • incidents • articles

links could be broken at any time. (our comments follow)
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05.09.80: ship crashes into the skyway and knocks it down, 35 die.
►►► your thoughts or memories about the skyway bridge disaster.◄◄◄

07.07.11: old skyway fishing pier to get new life as artificial reef.
05.09.10: skyway bridge disaster survivor who got off greyhound bus shares bond.
05.09.10: sunshine skyway bridge collapse, a look back.
08.02.07: minneapolis bridge collapse evokes memories of 1980 sunshine skyway disaster.
05.07.05: 'mayday, mayday': the skyway's last 11 minutes.
08.31.02: John Lerro, 'summit venture' harbor pilot, dead at 59.
05.19.00: man who stopped his car on collapsed skyway dies.
05.07.00: article about the 05.09.80 bridge collapse.
05.07.00: memories stay with man at command of the ship.
02.08.87: bridge arches over disaster.
05.09.85: skyway disaster still haunts lerro.
05.04.85: bridge collapse five years ago left legacies of change, trauma.
09.19.84: owners of freighter that hit skyway to pay $19 million.
06.19.84: rubble from skyway to be used as fishing reefs.
06.17.84: skyway was second brush with death for man who survived d-day horror.
05.02.84: survivor settles lawsuit.
02.22.84: bus driver's family awarded $800,000.
05.11.83: survivor still has nightmares about skyway collapse.
10.13.82: crew's blunders caused bridge fall, lawyers say.
07.06.82: lawsuits loom in skyway tragedy.
11.03.81: dismissal motion in skyway lawsuit is denied.
10.31.81: expert says driver tried to stop bus on skyway.
10.29.81: witness 'can't recall' collapse of skyway.
10.29.81: close calls described in skyway trial.
10.28.81: costs to repair skyway bridge detailed.
10.27.81: investigator says bus last to fall from skyway span.
10.26.81: skyway trial set to open today.
05.08.81: skyway bridge plunge recalled by survivor.
05.08.81: opinion - a year later, no wiser.
04.22.81: national transportation safety board safety recommendations.  pdf file
03.12.81: panel questions skyway replacement.
03.05.81: relatives of skyway victims are puzzled over lerro ruling.
02.09.81: marine board of investigation report.  pdf file
detailed 26 page report.
01.01.81: the skyway bridge disasters - when they were over, 58 were dead.
12.31.80: suspension bridge scrapped as skyway replacement.
10.26.80: pilot a 'scapegoat?'.
10.08.80: DOT nixes higher span for new skyway bridge.
07.01.80: junk dealer offers skyway keepsakes.
06.26.80: skyway salvage, it's going to cost $2.5 million.
06.25.80: two way ship traffic to be allowed under skyway bridge.
06.18.80: state suspends lerro's pilot license.
06.18.80: many residents refuse to drive across skyway.
05.30.80: miscellany - 3 skyway briefs.
05.21.80: bay traffic resumes since accident.
05.20.80: suit filed over death on skyway.
05.17.80: 2 pilots describe storm during bridge collapse.
05.17.80: i just have to learn to live with it.
05.16.80: ship lookout saw bridge's 'shadow' just before crash.
05.16.80: skyway insurer expected to pay state's claim.
05.16.80: citizens' group urges skyway safety review.
05.16.80: harbor pilot to testify.
05.16.80: narrow escape for crewman.
05.15.80: body of 35th victim found.
05.14.80: another body found.
05.14.80: mangled metal.
05.13.80: why didn't the d.o.t. listen?
lakeland ledger editorial.
05.13.80: why a disaster was very likely. reprint of a 06.04.78 st. pete times story.
05.13.80: investigation begins / two more bodies found.
05.12.80: two more cars found in bay.
05.12.80: skyway victims - varied memories.
05.11.80: lack of identification hampers naming of victims.
05.11.80: same pilot hit bridge in february.
05.10.80: death toll 32.
newspaper image shows dead bodies.
05.10.80: the tragedy that was no accident.
05.10.80: divers find bodies in rubble.
05.10.80: driver survives bridge collapse.
05.10.80: some suggest skyway bridge is cursed.
05.10.80: the curious braved rain for a look at disaster.
05.10.80: a rainy, twisted scene of death: is anyone alive down there?
05.10.80: officials describe bodies in effort to aid identifications.
05.10.80: original lakeland ledger newspaper coverage.
05.10.80: original st. pete times newspaper coverage.
05.09.80: accident timeline graphic.
05.09.80: 'summit venture' may-day distress call to the coast guard.
  4m44s - 32kbps • download/play

videos and pictures about the collapse.
victims of the disaster:

pick-up truck, 1974 Ford Courier:
Wesley MacIntire, 56, Gulfport, FL. (only survivor)

car, 1980 Chevrolet Citation:
Doris Carlson, 42, Pinellas Park, FL.
John J. Carlson, 47, Pinellas Park, FL.

car, 1979 Chevrolet Nova:
Leslie J. Coleman Jr., 52, St. Petersburg, FL.

car, 1980 Ford Fairmont:
Charles L. Collins, 40, Tampa, FL.

car, 1975 Ford LTD 4-door:
Harry Dietch, 68, St. Petersburg, FL.
Hildred Dietch, 73, St. Petersburg, FL.

car, 1976 Chevrolet El Camino:
James A. Pryor, 42, Seminole, FL.

car, 1979 VW Scirocco:
Delores E. Smith, 50, Pennsville, N.J.
Robert S. Smith, 37, Pennsville, N.J.
26 on the Greyhound bus:
Michael J. Curtin, 43, Apollo Beach, FL. (driver)
Duane P. Adderly, 21, Miami, FL.
Alphonso Blidge, 22, Miami, FL.
Myrtle Brown, 58, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Willis L. Brown, 57, St. Johns, Newfoundland
John H. Callaway Jr., 19, Miami, FL.
Laverne L. Daniels, 20, Miami, FL.
Sandra L. Davis, 34, McIntosh, FL.
Sharon Dixon, 21, Miami, FL.
Brenda J. Green, 19, Miami, FL.
Robert D. Harding, 63, Glen Falls, N.Y.
Gerda Hedquist, 92, Charlotte Harbor, FL.
Aubrey R. Hudson, 62, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Phyllis Hudson, 58, St. Johns, Newfoundland
Louise T. Johnson, 59, Cataula, Georgia
Yvonne Johnson, 22, Perrine, FL.
Horace V. Lemmons, 47, Kings Mountain, N.C.
Lillian T. Loucks, 69, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Louis Lucas Jr., 62, Dolomite, Alabama
Marguerite L. Mathison, 82, St. Petersburg, FL.
Tawanna K. McClendon, 20, Palmetto, FL.
Manesha McGarrah, 7 months, Tallahassee, FL.
Wanda S. McGarrah, 24, Tallahassee, FL.
Ann Pondy, 57, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Melborne L. Russell, 38, Chicago, Il.
Woodrow Triplett, 33, Bainbridge, Ga.

non-bus rider, but listed as one in news article:
Mel Buck, 37, got on the bus in Chicago?
corrections and more are always welcome.
 

almost victims of the disaster:

1976 Buick Skylark stopped short of the broken end:
Dick Hornbuckle, 60, St. Petersburg, FL., dies
Jim Crispin, 61, St. Petersburg, FL.
Anthony Gattus, 62, Clearwater, FL.
Kenneth Holmes, 40, St. Petersburg, FL.
on the ship, 'Summit Venture':
John Lerro, 37, harbor pilot. more.
Sit Hau Po, deck hand, lookout
Lok Ling Ming, ship's carpenter, lookout
 
books about:
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 - Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought It Down,
      by Bill DeYoung
• 01.10.14, article about.
• 10.23.13, wgcu.org, speaking with Bill DeYoung about his book, 32 minutes.
• author's web site: billdeyoung.com
2 - The Sunshine Skyway Bridge: Spanning Tampa Bay, by Nevin D. and Richard N. Sitler
3 - Bridge Down, by George Mair
4 - Disaster on the Sunshine Skyway, by Dale Andrew White
5 - Skyway : The Sunshine Skyway Bridge Disaster of 1980, by Gene Page, Phil Skinner, Jim Curtis
6 - Bridge to Oblivion, skyway based historical fiction by Henry Hoffman
09.13.05, Jay R., Sarasota, My father died on this bridge when I was 7, His name was Melbourne Russell, He was a passenger on the Greyhound bus coming from chicago when the Summit Venture hit the bridge. My Mother and I never were close, I was raised by my aunt. Well she has passed and I am trying to find as much info about my father as possible. The only Picture I have seen of him is when he was being pulled from the water by coast guard divers. He has the Black buckled boots. Every time i have searched I come to this site. I am having a hard time finding Information. I don't even know where he was buried. If anyone could help i would appreciate it. melissa and dave respond:

12.03.05, Melissa, Dallas, TX., This information is for Jay R., who was seeking more information about his father who died in the 1980 Skyway bridge accident. A quick search of the Social Security Death Index revealed that his father's full name was Melborn Leon Russell, born 16 Feb 1942 and had the Social Security Number [number withheld], applied for in Illinois. He can request a certified copy of his father's death certificate from the Florida Department of Health for $5.00 (including shipping; expedited shipping is available for an extra fee). Further information on it can be found at www.doh.state.fl.us/. I took a quick look at Find-A-Grave but it didn't turn anything up on where he's buried. (we passed this on to jay. thank you.)

12.30.07, Dave B., The following information is for Jay Russell (posted 9-13-05), son of one Melbourne L. Russell who perished in the 5-9-80 Sunshine bridege tragedy as a rider on a Greyhound Bus. Please follow the link here- summitventure pdf file Go to page number 7 of 26 in the pdf attachment. Your father was Married to one Julia Ann Russell. The body was sent to Sarasota Funeral Home @ 3340 Bee Ridge Rd. Sarasota, FL. His body was cremated by the Seacoast Crematory in Sarasota. Perhaps, this information will allow you to search records of these businesses and help you find closure.. May God bless you in your search and fill the void you are looking to fill. (we tried to pass this on to jay, but it was returned 'undeliverable'. perhaps he will check back here and update his email address. thank you.)

02.10.08, jay, found on a blog since removed, Posted on 05/11/2007, My father is one of the passengers who died on the Greyhoud bus. "Melborne Russell" My mother and I were depicted in the Book named "Bridge Down" by Mair, George. I remember the day, 9 years old sitting in front of the coin operated television. Hearing the breaking news of the large freight ship hitting the bridge. My mother sobbing and screaming, the Greyhound attendant trying to console her. It was a defining moment in my life. My mother never remarried and I lost a father forever. As I grew older the bridge has always been apart of me. I was the first to cross the new bridge when they had a 3 mile grand opening foot race to memorialize the bridge. My company did Balance testing on the new bridge. My friend of many years lost his wife to suicide on the bridge. Another friend Lost his son to the bridge in a Romeo and Juliet style suicide. I caught a 7' hammerhead under the bridge. I suppose when it is time for me to leave this earth. What a more fitting way than for me to take my last (jay's post ends abruptly.)

05.10.11, Tara H., Boston, MA., facebook, My grandfather, Robert D. Harding of Glens Falls, NY, was riding the Greyhound bus which fell into the bay. My Mother, an only child, learned of the loss of her father on the evening (late?) news that Mother's Day. My grandfather was returning home after a job of driving someone's (who chose to fly) car to Florida. The next day, my parent's picked us up early from school and we traveled to the hospital to tell my grandmother, who was recovering from a heart attack in the ICU. I was ten years old and vividly remember being told as I sat at the kitchen table. I started crying while staring at the cover of a math text book. The image of that book always comes to mind. This was experience with the death of a family member. At the wake/funeral I learned that the casket was closed because his body was contained in an insert inside. I vaguely remember my Mother calling it a ziggy. ... Thank you for letting me share.

01.31.14, tampabay.com, Letters to the Editor: Bay area needs 'Summit Venture' memorial.
On Jan. 28, the U.S. Coast Guard held a ceremony in the rest area at the north end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to honor the 23 crewmen who perished in the 1980 sinking of the cutter Blackthorn in the area near the shipping channel. Dedicated in 1981, the Coast Guard's 8-foot granite monument is a thing of solemn beauty.
Why is there not a similar memorial to honor the 35 private citizens lost on May 9, 1980, when the freighter Summit Venture took down 1,300 feet of the Skyway in a violent squall?
As a St. Petersburg native, and the author of Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought It Down, I have been trying for nearly a year to jump through whatever bureaucratic hoops are necessary to right this egregious wrong. The Florida Department of Transportation, the custodian of the rest area (known as Blackthorn Memorial Park), took six months to discuss my proposal, only to tell me in the end that it could not be done without an act of the Legislature.
My repeated requests for assistance were ignored by U.S. Rep. Bill Young, state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, and former governor and senator Bob Graham (who, ironically, was interviewed extensively for my book).
The Summit Venture disaster remains the worst ship/bridge collision in American history. And, as many of your readers will remember, perhaps the darkest moment the Tampa Bay area has ever known.
To my knowledge, there is not a single public mention of the tragedy anywhere in Pinellas or Manatee counties. I can only surmise that the state of Florida is trying to pretend it never happened.
Bill DeYoung, Savannah, Ga. (of course they are trying to ignore the accident away. they name and erect signage dedicating the bridge to some undeserving politician, but have no desire to dedicate a memorial to the dozens that flew off the same structure his bloated government was in charge of protecting. we call bullshit. the fact those in government ignore you is of no surprise. come up with something that will shine a heroic light on them or stuff their pockets full of cash and they will come a runnin'.)
►►► your thoughts or memories about the skyway bridge collapse.◄◄◄
skywaydisaster.com: web site dedicated to the collapse.
other skyway/boat collisions:
04.29.87 • 11.08.84 • 02.14.83 • 11.12.82 • 11.09.82 • 02.16.80 • 02.06.80 • 05.26.76 • 08.20.73 • 08.31.70
close calls: 03.28.07 • 05.02.78
.
12.31.98: man drives off the end of the old skyway bridge fishing pier and dies.
William Dusty Sallee, 38
01.08.99, © St. Petersburg Times, By LEANORA MINAI, Tollkeeper's plunge ruled accident.
While the associate medical examiner agrees that the fatal crash on the Skyway fishing pier was odd, he says he has no evidence of suicide. 
The death of William Dusty Sallee, the pier toll operator who drove off the South Skyway Fishing Pier into Tampa Bay, has been ruled an accident by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office. 
Without a suicide note or witness who heard Sallee threaten to kill himself, there is no evidence that Sallee intended to take his life, said Dr. Russell Vega, the associate medical examiner who performed the autopsy. 
"My point of view here is that without pretty strong evidence that a traffic crash is a suicide, we're going to call it an accident," Vega said.
Sallee suffered trauma to the chest and abdomen when his speeding GMC Jimmy hit a Honda Accord at the end of the pier. He crashed through a foot-thick concrete wall and plunged 15 feet into the water.
"He primarily drowned," Vega said. 
Toxicology tests to determine whether Sallee had alcohol or drugs in his system will be ready today. 
Fishermen said Sallee, 38, was jittery and complained of stomach problems when they paid their entrance tolls. 
"I know he had a few beers the day before, but not that day," said Greg McElwaney, 40, his roommate in Tampa. 
Sallee had just finished his midnight to 8 a.m. shift Dec. 31 when he climbed into his truck and drove down the pier. 
Witnesses said Sallee was driving 70 mph and staring straight ahead before he reached the end of the pier. 
The Florida Highway Patrol has not finished its investigation. 
"The story that I had at the time was that he collided with a car, which caused his car to go off the pier," said Vega, the medical examiner. "I didn't hear a story that he turned his car to intentionally head off a pier." 
However, Vega said, the crash is odd. 
"I would admit to you that you have to wonder why somebody would be driving like that, and I don't have a good explanation," he said. "He might have been thinking about something. Maybe he does have some substances in his body causing him to act irrationally." 
McElwaney, Sallee's roommate, said he thinks Sallee suffered a stroke. 
"He had every intention of coming home that morning," said McElwaney, who knew Sallee for six years. 
The medical examiner said strokes do not show up in an autopsy, and other than signs of some heart disease, Sallee did not appear chronically ill. 
McElwaney and Sallee's family plan to spread Sallee's cremated remains over a forest. 
"It's hard," McElwaney said, "because I have to walk through the same doors he did every day." 
.
12.27.96: 54 vehicle pile-up on skyway kills one female.
Jane Stumpf, 69
12.28.96:

article image • google scan
01.01.97: new policy.

article image • google scan
12.26.97:

two article image • google scan
.
02.28.88: first responder accidently falls from bridge during accident service call.
Daniel Smith
03.12.12, Daniel Smith, Red Boiling Springs, Tn., I fell off of the bridge on 2-28-88 at approx 3:30 am. while attending to the victims of a terrible crash. At the time I was a fireman for Venice, Fl. I fell near where the cables attach to the bridge on the north side. I thought I only fell about 70 ft but later found that it could have been around 150 ft. I have been the butt of many jokes because I am told it was a "leap year", but several lives were taken by that crash and I will always wonder if I could have done more to help them. Thanks, Dan Smith (retired Lt. Venice Fire Dept) (accidents can and do happen to those responding to accidents. you were indeed lucky to have survived the fall. try to not beat yourself up by thinking you could have done more. you responded, you tried. as for being "the butt of many jokes", consider that they were no doubt brought on by guys that liked you, because that's what guys do. thank you for sharing your story. we checked for a news article, but found nothing.)
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04.29.87: trawler rams skyway.

full article


extensive google news scan story.
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02.07.87: woman drowns after driving off bridge approach.
Linda Robillard, 35
.
05.09.86: accidental skyway death.
Charles Bailey, 40

 

05.10.86:

two article image


05.13.86:

article image
 
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08.23.85: man killed in fiery auto crash on bridge.
Kenneth James Ervin
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11.08.84: barge hits bridge. full article.
.
10.31.84: skyway worker drowns.
Delray Morris, 25
.
07.30.84: man jumps from bridge when crane collapses, lives
David Schwandner
.
11.28.83: skyway construction worker killed.
Mac Warren Ridings, 51
.
08.08.83: man killed in head-on auto crash.
Clarence P. Peterson, 41
.
07.13.83: head-on crash kills man.
Gerald Kavanagh, 50
.
02.14.83: barge hits bridge.
.
11.12.82: barge hits bridge.
.
11.09.82: barge hits bridge.
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02.20.82: faller, male
Edward F. Thornton Jr., 17

 

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01.01.81
Hol Yol Choe, 5

full article
05.10.13, Bill, Houston, TX., A little boy who was hit and killed in Jan '81.
In January 1981 (I was 10), a 5 yr old Korean boy (last name Cho)was struck by a car on the southbound lane/fishing pier. He was running between guardrails with a bait bucket when I heard brakes screech and his father scream. I did not see the impact. As he lay on the roadway, my dad tried to administer CPR. Cho's lips turned blue, and I kept asking if he was going to be alright, but I know he wouldn't. After nearly 30 minutes, an ambulance took him away. He lived on the next block over from me. I played with him a few times. If anyone ever sees a young boy on the south fishing pier, you know who he is and how he got there. Rest in peace my long, lost friend.
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05.09.80: ship knocks the skyway down. 35 die. articles on top of this page.
.
02.16.80: boat hits bridge.

 


 

.
02.06.80: ship hits bridge.

full article



.
01.28.80: ship 'capricorn' collides with the coast guard tender 'blackthorn' near skyway, 23 die.
extensive 64 page article about the accident. 7mb  pdf file
google.com: more.
.
10.06.79: man crashes car on bridge and plunges off, dies.
Qays Al-Thaqeb, 18
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05.02.78: almost accident.

 
05.13.80: full article
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10.15.76: two injured in three car crash.
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05.26.76: boat hits bridge.
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08.20.73: barge hits bridge.
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08.31.70: ship hits bridge. full article.
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06.28.70: auto accident. full article.
Amelia Biasi, 57
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11.20.69: two accidents injure six.
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11.09.68: auto accident kills 5.
Tommy Lee Harris, 20
.
05.20.67: auto accident kills 3, injures 3 others.
.
04.07.64: man killed while fishing.
Ernest Cleveland Porter, 68
.
02.19.63: car blown off skyway. full article.
Carl Bohman, 53, dies and wife Irene Bohman, 52, survives.
.
skyway accidents after 2000 • incidents • articles
 

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