Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn Memorial Service to be Held

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The public is invited to attend a memorial service for the 23 Coast Guardsmen lost in the sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn Jan. 28, 1980. The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan.28, at Blackthorn Memorial Park off I-275 on the north end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Blackthorn sunk after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Skyway Bridge. Twenty-seven Blackthorn crewmembers were able to escape the Coast Guards worst peacetime disaster. A memorial inscribed with the names of the 23 crewmembers that perished now stands two-miles north of the site of the accident.

Monday’s ceremony will consist of an aerial salute by Coast Guard aircraft, posting of the Colors, reading of the names of the lost crewmembers, a cutterman’s salute and remarks by Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp, Coast Guard Chief of Staff.

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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