Monday marked 33 years since the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn sank in 1980 in a tragic collision with the tanker S.S. Capricorn near Tampa Bay’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The accident killed 23 crew members and would prove to be the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. A memorial inscribed with the names of the crew members who perished now stands two miles north of the accident site.
In 2000, Seaman Apprentice Willam “Billy” Flores was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal, the service’s highest award for heroism in peacetime. Flores, who had been out of boot camp just one year, opened the life jacket locker as the Blackthorn capsized, securing its hatch open with his belt, and made sure that his shipmates were able to access and use the life jackets. His actions saved a number of lives during the accident.