Baltimore bridge collapse brings reminder of similar tragedy in Florida

35 people were killed during collapse of original Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1980

FILE - A car is halted at the edge of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay, Fla., after the freighter Summit Venture struck the bridge during a thunderstorm and tore away a large part of the span, May 9 1980. A container ship struck a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, March 26, 2024, causing it to plunge into the river below. From 1960 to 2015, there have been 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collision. (AP Photo/Jackie Green, File) (Jackie Green, AP1980)

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is of the more scenic drives in Florida, with motorists able to connect from the St. Petersburg area to cities further down the west coast of the state through a roadway over the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s an engineering marvel that opened in 1987 and cost $244 million to build, but the newly constructed bridge came after a tragedy occurred there that was similar to the one in Baltimore on Tuesday.

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On May 9, 1980, the original bridge was destroyed after a freighter ship called the MV Summit Venture collided with a support column of the bridge during morning rush hour as motorists were traveling through a rain storm.

More than 1,200 feet of the bridge was destroyed. There were 35 killed after six cars, a truck and a Greyhound bus plunged into the water, with the oldest victim being 92 and the youngest victim a baby.

9th May 1980: Debris from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge perched on the bow of the freighter 'Summit Venture' after the vessel rammed the bridge during a thunderstorm at Tampa Bay, Florida, causing 34 deaths. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Some cars barely managed to stop their vehicles before reaching the collapsed gap in the bridge. The ship that collided with the bridge was headed to what was then called the Port of Tampa.

Following the tragedy, what remained of the bridge was torn down, except for two ends now used as fishing piers. A replacement was eventually built in a different location, with more bumpers to protect from crashes and with a raised height to better allow ships to pass underneath.

File photo: A fuel tanker makes her way under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Wednesday afternoon, April 23, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ten people jumped to their death in 2007 from the majestic Florida Gulf Coast landmark. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (AP 2019)

Those who died in the tragedy are honored at a memorial of the 1980 tragedy that is on the Pinellas County side of the bridge.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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