Tampa Bay, FL USCGC BLACKTHORNE Sunk by Tanker, Jan 1980
25 MISSING IN CUTTER'S COLLISION.
St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP) -- Divers received no response early today when they tapped the shattered hull of a sunken Coast Guard cutter looking for 25 crewmen still missing after an oil tanker ripped into the cutter's port side and sent it down into 50-feet of water outside of Tampa Bay.
"They're gone," one shivering survivor said at a makeshift medical center on shore after the Monday night collision. "The guys that are down there are gone."
The 180-foot cutter BLACKTHORN sank Monday night minutes after the 605-foot S. S. CAPRICORN slammed into it, Coast Guard spokesmen said.
The cause of the collision, in calm seas under clear skies was not known. None of the tanker's cargo spilled, but fuel oil leaked from the cutter.
Duty officer SCOTT HUTCHINS said today that 28 of the 53 crewmen aboard the BLACKTHORN were accounted for, including one confirmed dead who waw not identified.
Authorities were unsure how many men were aboard the BLACKTHORN. One Coast Cuard spokesman, JAMES DAVIS, said the crew may have numbered only 52.
Authorities also offered varying opinions about the prospects for anyone trapped inside the cutter.
"All these people are under shock, and it would be hard for them to last very long," said Coast Guard spokesman LANCE JONES.
"From what we understand, it went down real fast," HUTCHINS said of the BLACKTHORN which was steaming for its homeport in Galveston, Texas, when it sand. "It could leave a good air pocket in there, so the chances could be good."
Nearly two dozen scuba divers, working under the floodlights of helicopters hovering overhead, attempted early today to check for survivors in the sunken ship be were forced to turn back.
"The original divers were called back because the currents were too strong down there," HUTCHINS said. "They never got to take a good look inside the ship. As a matter of fact they never got inside the ship."
DAVIS said a group of hard-hat divers resumed the search before daybreak today.
No injuries were reported to the 30 crewmen aboard the CAPRICORN owned by Apex Marine of New York. Officials also said that none of the tanker's more than 150,000 barrels of fuel oil spillled after the collision which occurred at 8:20 p.m. EST.
The BLACKTHORN, in service as a buoy tender, had been in drydock in Tampa for 30 days while the tanker was headed into Tampa Bay.
Skies were clear and seas were calm when the ships hit less that a mile west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, connecting St. Petersburg and the Bradenton-Sarasota area.
"It rolled and straightened up," an unidentified survivor said. "Then it started rolling again and it started to go over. I could see the people slilding off. There was nothing to hold on to. I couldn't believe how cold it was in the water or the stink of the fuel."
Survivors said everything happened so fast they didn't have time to reach life rafts.
Crew member DAVID MARIK, 23, said a "stand by for collision" alarm sounded on the BLACKTHORN only five seconds before impact.
"It tore a hole in the port side of the ship," he said. "After four minutes, it sank."
Less that 30 crewmen were reported on deck at the time of the collision. Others, sleeping below deck, said they had to swim through gangways to escape.
"We crawled out on the starboard side," said CHARLIE BARTEL, 21, of New Orleans. "The water was rushing in, but I made it out. We crawled out as it was going down."
Within 90 minutes of the sinking, 27 survivors -- including the captain, Lt. Cmdr. JIM SEPEL -- were plucked from the 54-degree waters by Coast Guard helicopters and private boats.
Many were clinging to bridge pillings beneath the Skyway. Others grabbed lifejackets thrown to them by crew members of the CAPRICORN.
After the survivors were brought ashore they were wrapped in blackets and transported to area hospitals by police cars, ambulances and buses. Some were crying, others, visibly shaken, witnesses said.
The Capital Annapolis Maryland 1980-01-29
Crew of USCGC BLACKTHORN lost in the line of duty January 28, 1980.
CWO JACK J. ROBERTS.
SS1 SUBRINO AVILA.
MK1 BRUCE LAFOND.
MK1 DANNY R. MAXCY.
SA CHARLES D. HALL.
ET1 JEROME F. RESSLER.
ENS FRANK J. SAMA.
SA WILLILAM R. FLORES.
MKC LUTHER O. STIDHAM.
MK2 RICHARD D. BOONE.
QM2 GARY W. CRUMLY.
DC2 DANIEL M. ESTRADA.
EM2 THOMAS R. FAULKNER.
SS3 DONALD R. FRANK.
QM3 RICHARD W. GAULD.
DC3 LAWRENCE D. FRYE.
EM3 EDWARD F. SINDELAR.
SNGM RANDOLPH B. BARNABY.
FA MICHAEL K. LEKE.
SA WARREN R. BREWER.
SA GLEN E. HARRISON.
SA JOHN E. PROSKO.
SA GEORGE ROVOLIS, JR.
List of names from www.uscg.mil site -- thank you.