St.Petersburg,Fla. (970 WFLA)-On a somber anniversary, the Coast Guard can find encouragement. That was the message delivered Sunday at a St. Petersburg ceremony to honor the victims of the worst peacetime disaster in Coast Guard history.
The Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Jan. 28, 1980. The Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crewmembers in the disaster.
A memorial inscribed with the names of the crew members that perished now stands two miles north of the collision site.
The ceremony consisted of remarks by Adm. Peter Brown, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District, the posting of the Colors, and reading of the lost crew members’ names, each commemorated by the placing of a rose.
"Although this is a sad occasion, as we mourn the loss of nearly half the Blackthorn’s crew that night, it is also an encouraging moment when we think about how much the Coast Guard has advanced since then, and we can be assured that the service and sacrifice of Blackthorn’s officers and crew was not in vain," said Brown.
The Blackthorn collision provided the impetus for the establishment of the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. The school offers courses to prepare command-level officers and senior enlisted members for command duty afloat.
Additionally, the Coast Guard developed new training requirements, spent more money on safety equipment and made changes to the navigational aids in and around Tampa Bay.
U.S. Coast Guard photos by Seaman Michael Clark