Coast Guard holds annual Blackthorn memorial service in St. Petersburg

The Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn bell tolls honoring fallen shipmates during the 38th annual Blackthorn memorial service in St. Petersburg, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, in St. Petersburg, Jan. 28, 1980, resulting in the Coast Guard's worst peacetime disaster. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Michael Clark)

The Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn bell tolls honoring fallen shipmates during the 38th annual Blackthorn memorial service in St. Petersburg, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Michael Clark)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Coast Guard crewmembers, survivors, family members, and community members from around the Tampa Bay area commemorated the 38th anniversary of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn tragedy, Sunday, at Liberty Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

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 crewmembers’ names, each commemorated by the placing of a rose.

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 worst peacetime disaster in Coast Guard history. A memorial inscribed with the names of the crewmembers that perished now stands two miles north of the collision site.

“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.

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