MANATEE COUNTY - If you lived on the Suncoast 33 years ago, you remember where you were when you heard the Skyway Bridge had collapsed. On May 9th, 1980, dozens of people died after plunging off the Skyway and into Tampa Bay just seconds after it was hit by an out of control freighter.
In the middle of a fierce storm the 600-foot Summit Venture tried to make it under the Skyway Bridge at 7:30am. Winds up to 50 miles an hour blew it off course and into the old bridge's concrete supports, sending the southbound span crashing into the bay.
Drivers heading south into Manatee County, blinded by heavy rain, could not see the deadly void in front of them. Eight vehicles, including a Greyhound bus carrying 22 passengers, plunged 150 feet into the water. 35 people died that day.
One man, Wesley MacIntire, survived the fall when his car landed on the deck of the Summit Venture before falling into the bay.
The pilot of the ship, John Lerro, was cleared of wrongdoing by both a state grand jury and a Coast Guard investigation.
For years later, drivers using what was left of the Skyway had to relive the disaster and the horror experienced by those who died by viewing the missing middle span of the southbound lanes.
The fishing piers on each side of the bay are all that remain of the old bridge. The new Sunshine Skyway Bridge that we use today opened in April, 1987.