Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapse draws eerie parallels to Tampa’s 1980 Skyway collapse

A container ship collided with one of the supports of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse early Tuesday morning. The picture was reminiscent of the 1980 Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse in Tampa Bay.

A video shows the Key Bridge, named for the creator of the national song, collapsing into the Patapsco River below. First responders were looking for at least seven persons, possibly more when sonar revealed multiple automobiles in the water.

A Baltimore Fire Department spokesperson described the situation as “a dire emergency,” and stated that the city’s priority was “trying to rescue and recover these people.”

This will have a significant impact because the bridge was one of just three toll crossings on the busy Baltimore Harbor. Traffic is being redirected through tunnels that cannot fit vehicles delivering hazardous materials and have height and width restrictions.

An inquiry will be conducted to discover what caused the Singapore-flagged ship, Dali, to crash into the Key Bridge.

The Key Bridge fall was an especially frightening picture for Tampa Bay residents, reminding them of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse nearly 44 years ago.

Visibility was substantially reduced on the morning of May 9, 1980, when the 19,734-ton Summit Venture collided with an aging Skyway Bridge support column during rush hour. Six automobiles, a truck, and a Greyhound bus sank into the river, killing 35 people.

The youngest casualty was a baby. The oldest was 92.

One man survived the Skyway fall after his pickup truck rebounded off the freighter ship’s bow. The crew managed to drag him to safety.

In the event of the Skyway collapse, the ship was steered by a harbor pilot who was assisting in navigating the vessel from the Gulf of Mexico to what was then known as the Port of Tampa. The ship’s radar had been disabled by a storm.

Crews demolished most of the historic Skyway Bridge. They left both ends, which were converted into the fishing piers that we see today.

Engineers relocated the present Skyway Bridge to a “better” site, boosted its height to allow ships to pass below more freely, and installed over three dozen bumpers to safeguard it from potential collisions.

A memorial honoring those who died is located on the Pinellas County side.

“The Skyway Bridge Disaster,” a documentary on the Skyway collapse, premiered in 2019. Filmmakers Frankie Vandeboe and Steve Yerrid described what happened following the incident, including the “courtroom drama” that followed.

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