Coast Guard remembers Blackthorn tragedy, honors fallen crewmembers

A wreath is shown at the 36th annual Blackthorn memorial service in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. 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 Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)

A wreath at the 36th annual Blackthorn memorial service in St. Petersburg, Fla. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard honored 23 fallen crewmembers during the 36th anniversary memorial service of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision, Thursday in St. Petersburg.

The Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker vessel Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Jan. 28, 1980. The Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crewmembers in the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. A memorial inscribed with the names of the crewmembers that perished stands two miles north of the collision site.

During the ceremony, crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Joshua Appleby and Coast Guard Cutter Resolute, homeported in St. Petersburg laid 23 roses to commemorate each of the fallen crewmembers.

In addition to the memorial service, the Chief Petty Officer’s mess hall at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg was re-dedicated to honor Chief Petty Officer Luther Stidhem one of the 23 crewmembers lost in the collision. Stidhem was the highest ranking enlisted crewmember aboard the Blackthorn.

“Today is a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their ship, their Coast Guard and our country,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, deputy commander Atlantic Area, Portsmouth, Virginia.

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, invested in more safety equipment and made changes to the navigational aids in and around Tampa Bay.

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