Looking back on the Skyway Bridge collapse 37 years later

Those affected by the barge crash that collapsed the bridge look back.

Tuesday marks 37 years since the fatal Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse.

The collapse on May 9, 1980, sent several cars and a Greyhound bus into the water. On that date, a freighter ship hit the bridge during a heavy rainstorm.

A memorial on the Pinellas County side of the bridge remembers the 35 victims killed in the collapse.

One of the victims was John “Chip” Callaway Jr., who was 19 years old.

Callaway was on his way home from college for summer break. His mother Grace Callaway suffered the loss just before Mother’s Day.

“Every time there's a family gathering, he's missing. Every time one of my kids does something that's admirable that I'd want the family to rejoice over, he's missing,” Grace Callaway said. “That's the part that really matters so much.”

John Callaway’s best friend Lynnwood Armstrong calls Grace Callaway every Mother’s Day.

Armstrong was on the Greyhound bus, but got off at the Tampa stop. The stop was the last before the bus drove over the Skyway.

“I used to wonder ‘Why?’ sometimes, but it just wasn’t my time,” Armstrong said. “I learned to accept life the way it is, and live life to the fullest. Because every day is not promised.”

Armstrong went on to work for the Florida Department of Transportation in 1986. The new bridge opened a year later.

The new bridge is sturdier, in a better location for ships and surrounded by giant bumpers called “dolphins.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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