This is the story of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse that resulted after being struck by the freighter Summit Venture on 9 May 1980. The tale is far more complicated than local harbor pilot, John Lerro, deciding to captain a huge ship underneath the bridge during a horrific and unexpected squall on the final push.
The SV was 606 feet long, the channel opening under the bridge was 400 feet, the radar stopped working and visibility was zero. Lerro had just moments to decide what to do. Given how close the Summit Venture was to the Skyway, should he try to stop the ship, turn it around, or stay the course and pilot the ship under the bridge just before morning rush hour?
So much had already gone wrong Lerro could not have anticipated. But after weighing all the options, Lerro made the decision to "aim for the hole" underneath the Skyway. By the time Lerro could see the bridge, it was too late. The hurricane-like gusts that morning had blown the huge ship far off course and the Summit Venture was headed directly into one of the main support piers that held up the highest parts of roadway.
The southbound span was destroyed as it fell straight down, section by section. Eight vehicles, including a Greyhound passenger bus, fell 150 feet into the churning waters of Tampa Bay as Lerro frantically called the Coast Guard for assistance.
The elements of the accident, the people involved, and the aftermath comprise the inaugural episode of Tampa Bay Terrible. Please listen as Shannon McMahon tells her son, Malcolm, about this terrible event.
05/30/20 • 78 min
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