Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge Tragedies in Tampa, Florida

One of the Greatest Bridges in the World

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge has been said to be one of the ten greatest bridges in the world...so claimed by the Travel Channel. If you were ever to drive across this bridge, you would be amazed at its grand structure and the beautiful view that envelopes your vehicle. This amazing bridge crosses over Tampa Bay waters, bridging the land between St. Petersburg, FL and Terra Ceia, FL. Major highways associated with this grand structure are I-275 and US Highway 19.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge has actually served as a safer replacement to an older bridge that stood in the early '80s. Most people do not know the tragic events that have occurred on the older bridge. The tragedies have even carried over to its newer replacement. By merely gazing out over the illuminated Tampa Bay waters, while driving over the amazing Sunshine Skyway, you would have absolutely no idea what sort of mournful mystery lurks in this particular span of water and inevitably the bridges that cross over it.

A Tampa Bay local once told me that the Native Americans that lived in this area of Florida claimed that they would not cross this particular part of the Bay...that the waters were cursed. Now, I cannot say whether that is a true Native legend or that it was not just made up by the locals to add to the many misfortunes surrounding the Sunshine Skyway, but either way...it is strangely sad and haunting.

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Double Tragedy Strikes in 1980

Reverting back to the original Sunshine Skyway structure, in the year of 1980, two very sad and scary catastrophes occurred in relation to the old bridge.

It was a sort of quiet night on the eve of January 28th, 1980 when the USCGC Blackthorn was preparing to pass under the great Sunshine Skyway Bridge on its way out of the famed Tampa Bay. Apparently a large cruise ship had just passed in front of them and the lights coming from the cruiseliner sort of rendered the Blackthorn's sight useless. The Capricorn was passing from the opposite direction. The cruiseliner's lights made it difficult for the Blackthorn to see the Capricorn clearly enough and unexpectedly they hit one another head on. This crash occurred only 3/4 of a mile from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. There was a total of about twenty nine men on board the Blackthorn that were either caught in the mangled wreckage of the Blackthorn or were drowned underneath of the ship, as the Blackthorn ended up capsizing due to a jammed anchor from the larger Capricon boat.

After this incredibly sad tragedy occurred, yet another catastrophe happened less than five months later. On May 9th, 1980, a freighter known as the Summit Venture collided with one of the Sunshine Skyway's support columns...literally tearing down twelve hundred feet of the massive bridge. The gaping hole that was left in the Skyway Bridge caused six vehicles and one greyhound bus to plummet to their deaths, one hundred and fifty feet below the remains of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Thirty five innocent Tampa Bay citizens lost their lives that day, with only one survivor from the incident...a man who's pick-up truck landed on the Venture's deck before falling into the Bay.

This original Sunshine Skyway bridge was demolished in 1993 to make room for a larger and safer replacement. The sole survivor of the May 9th tragedy was allowed to drive up the wrecked bridge one more time and paid homage to the thirty five that were killed that day by dropping thirty five carnations into the Bay waters below. No doubt the fact that he was the only one who survived this accident haunts him every day of his life.

If you were to drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as it stands today, you will notice two piers on either side of the bridge...these are the piers from the original Skyway bridge...used now as a safe fishing spot for locals.

The Jumpers

There has been an estimated one hundred and ninety suicides committed from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Sunshine Skyway does not seem to be the proper name for this bridge. If you drive across it at night, you will notice that there is always a police car parked at the top...waiting to prevent some idiot from jumping off of it and breaking his neck by hitting the water one hundred and fifty feet below.

There is a website that gives statistics and stories in relation to the Sunshine Skyway jumpers, which is www.skywaybridge.com. It is somewhat of a disturbing and intense site and should only be viewed by adults who are not overly sensitive. However, a lot of the information they provide is quite intruiging and it really makes you wonder why all of these people decide to end their lives so loudly. Many people have attempted to jump from the bridge but have been stopped by other passersby or police officers patrolling the bridge, but once someone has jumped from the incredible height of the bridge, there is not much chance of survival...if any at all. According to the St. Petersburg Times, "anyone who jumps from a point close to the center of the bridge, hits the water in about 3.5 seconds at about 75 mph. The impact usually breaks bones and ruptures organs. Some live for mere minutes before they drown".

If you know of someone that has threatened to commit suicide or is depressed enough that you feel they may attempt this, please get them assistance immediately. You do not want that person to end up like the jumpers off of the Skyway Bridge. It is more than tragic...it is disgusting to think that these people may have had a chance to be talked out of their idiotic decision to take their own lives. There are many hotlines that you can call, which I have listed below just in case they are needed.

With so many deaths and tragedies surround the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, it is difficult for me to believe that there is not something paranormal or mysterious occurring in this area of the Tampa Bay. Could it be an old curse placed upon the waters hundreds of years ago? I have no idea, but it is a good theory.

A Follow-up

After publishing this hub yesterday afternoon, I have to admit that I was not totally aware of how sad the tragedies of 1980 must have really been for the families and loves ones of the victims. Last night, I had a dream in which I was with a good friend of mine and we were backing out of a garage...when we backed out onto the driveway, our car was sucked into a massive body of water that had flooded the house around us. My friend looked at me, as though I knew what to do. I said to her, "we'll just open my door and swim out and up." Well, it was not that simple...I was able to get the driver's side door open and we swam out. But the swim to the top of the water was more than challenging...it was frightening. In the dream itself I felt like I was unable to breathe...and the longer I swam to reach the top the more and more I struggled to breathe.

I woke up out of this dream thanks to my alarm on my cell; moreover, I laid in bed for fifteen minutes contemplating the true meaning of this dream. I immediately related it to this hub and realized that maybe I had not paid enough honor to the victims of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I know it has been over thirty years since the accidents, but these people should still be remembered and serve as proof that life is a very precious thing to have...do not waste it.

Copyright © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.

© 2011 Author Nicole Canfield

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Comments 4 comments

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Yes, I can see how that would be even scarier!


Tampa Pool Cleaning guy 4 years ago

I'm afraid of heights and always get a little tense going over that bridge, then i again i like going on it at 90 mph cause it's fun but scary.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Glenn - Thanks for reading and voting. Yes, it is a beautiful bridge to cross and most people don't realize what's happened there and still happens there every year. It's a sad thing, truly.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

I drove over the new Sunshine Skyway bridge several times whenever I was down there. I never knew about these tragedies with the old bridge. This was a very interesting hub. I voted up and awesome.

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