MULTIMEDIA RELEASE: Coast Guard remembers Blackthorn tragedy

January 28, 2015

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Coast Guardmen from the surrounding area, along with families of crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and numerous other guests attended the 35th annual Blackthorn memorial ceremony near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Florida, Wednesday.

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

"Thirty five years ago, 23 Coast Guardsmen were lost after the Blackthorn collided with a tank vessel in Tampa Bay," said Rear Adm. Jake Korn, Coast Guard 7th District commander. "Not surprisingly, several of those who perished died while attempting to rescue their shipmates. Today, we remember our shipmates, we honor their legacy, and we pay our respects for their service to the Coast Guard and their country. We will never forget them."

The Blackthorn collision provided the impetus for the establishment of the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. 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, Florida. 

 “Today, I had the honor of paying tribute to the Coast Guardsmen who lost their lives on the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, Jan. 28, 1980,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven W. Cantrell. “Twenty-three members – nearly half – of the cutter's crew perished 35 years ago today. The majority were quite young – in their 20s. The oldest, Chief Stidhem, had just turned 40-years-old two weeks earlier, while the youngest, Seaman Apprentice Rovolis, wouldn’t have turned 18 for another several months. All of them were taken too soon, and we must never forget their dedication, their service and their sacrifice.”