Tragedy Strikes Again – Deadly Bridge Collapse Echoes 1980 Disaster

A devastating bridge collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday, March 26, has brought back haunting memories of a similar tragedy that occurred 44 years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida. The incident in Baltimore involved a cargo ship that lost power and drifted into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and sending eight road construction workers into the Patapsco River below.

The accident mirrors the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse in Tampa Bay on May 9, 1980, when a freighter ship struck the bridge on a foggy morning, causing it to fall 150 feet into the water. The Skyway collapse claimed the lives of 35 people, including those in multiple cars and a Greyhound Bus that plummeted into the bay.

In the Baltimore incident, the cargo ship managed to send out a mayday call to authorities before the collision, giving officials enough time to stop traffic on both ends of the bridge. However, the construction crew working on the bridge at the time was unable to escape the collapse. Rescuers managed to pull two of the workers out of the river alive, but the remaining six are presumed dead. Late Tuesday evening, the US Coast Guard transitioned from a rescue to a recovery operation.

Cynthia Zahnow, an oncology professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, spoke to The Washington Post about her experience as a 19-year-old member of the search-and-rescue team during the Skyway Bridge collapse. She described the horrifying task of hoisting bodies recovered from the Greyhound bus and the haunting expression on the bus driver’s face. Zahnow, who has driven over the Key Bridge many times, said that the news of Tuesday’s accident transported her back to that tragic day in Florida.

The parallels between the two bridge collapses are striking – both occurred in the early morning hours, involved a ship colliding with a major thoroughfare bridge, and resulted in the loss of innocent lives. As authorities work to recover the victims of the Baltimore collapse and investigate the cause of the accident, the echoes of the Sunshine Skyway tragedy serve as a somber reminder of the devastating impact such incidents can have on communities and the lives of those involved.

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