Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial service to be held Friday

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A Coast Guardsmen salutes the Blackthorn Memorial after placing a wreath at the base during the annual memorial held on Jan. 28 in St. Petersburg, Fla.  USCG photo by PA3 Robert L. Suddarth

USCG File Photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The public is invited to attend the 31st anniversary memorial service of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision at 11 a.m., Friday, at Blackthorn Memorial Park off Interstate 275.

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‚Äôs ceremony will consist 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.

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.

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