After 39 years, Tampa Bay still reflects on the tragedy of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Local News

It’s been 39 years since the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapsed into Tampa Bay.

The bridge, originally opening to traffic on Sept. 6, 1954, was hit by a freighter named Summit Venture, killing 35 people during the Friday morning rush.

At 7:33 a.m., the 1,200-foot span of the bridge plumeted 150 feet into the water, taking with it six cars, one truck and a Greyhound bus carrying 26 people.

While en route, John Lerro who was the harbor pilot driving Summit Venture, had experienced 70 mph winds as he was approaching  the 58.4-mile channel leading into the Port of Tampa.

The winds and rain caused the ship’s radar to malfuntion, anf Lerro make a series of manuevers that led to the bow of the ship hitting to support beams, causing the bridge to fall. 

Among the victims, ranging in age between 7-months-old and 92- years-old, the lone survivor was  56-year-old Wesley MacIntire who reached a settlement with the Summit Venture’s owner for $175,000.

Three years later, a second bridge, designed by Fig & Muller Engineering and built by American Bridge Company for $244 million, opened to traffic. 

The bridge we drive across today, otherwise known as the Bob  Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, is 50 percent wider than the old bridge and is surrounded by large concrete barriers, called “dolphins,” that will protect the bridge piers from collisions by tankers, container ships and cruise ships.

Last year, 59,179 people travelled across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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