Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial ceremony

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Chief Warrant Officer Michael Tomasi, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Joshua Appleby, salutes renders a salute during the 31st anniversary of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn ceremony Jan. 28, 2011, in St. Petersburg. The Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, in St. Petersburg, Jan. 28, 1980. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Chief Warrant Officer Michael Tomasi, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Joshua Appleby, renders a salute during the 31st anniversary of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn ceremony Jan. 28, 2011, in St. Petersburg. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –  Coast Guardsmen, survivors, family members, and community members from around the Tampa Bay area commemorated the 31st anniversary of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn tragedy, Friday, at Blackthorn Memorial Park, in St. Petersburg.

The Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Jan 28, 1980.  Twenty-three of the Blackthorn’s 50 crewmembers lost their lives during the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster.  A memorial inscribed with the names of the crewmembers that perished now stands two miles north of the accident site.

Friday’s ceremony consisted of an aerial salute by Coast Guard aircraft, remarks by Coast Guard Rear Adm. William D. Baumgartner, commander Seventh Coast Guard District,  posting of the Colors, and reading of the lost crewmembers’ names, each commemorated by the placing of a rose beneath the memorial.

The Blackthorn tragedy 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.  Commanding officers are now required to formally assess risks such as transiting an unfamiliar port at night and are given full discretion and encouraged to say no if they feel the risks involved are unnecessary.

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.

Photos from the memorial services at St. Petersburg and Sector Field Office Galveston can be viewed HERE.

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