New documentary recounts Skyway bridge disaster. Watch the trailer here.

A freighter crashed into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1980 and killed 35 people. A new documentary will premiere Sept. 14.
Published July 15
Updated July 18

Tampa Theatre will host the premiere of the new documentary, The Skyway Bridge Disaster, about the deaths of 35 people in the freighter crash that collapsed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in May 1980.

A freak weather formation was blamed in the crash, and Capt. John Lerro was exonerated. Lerro’s attorney, Steve Yerrid, co-produced the documentary with local filmmaker Frank VanDeBoe.

The narrator is retired WTVT-Ch. 13 news anchor John Wilson. The film includes interviews with survivors, reporters who covered the tragedy and elected officials of the time including former Florida Gov. Bob Graham and former Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez.

Animators created a chilling recreation of the crash as Lerro would have seen it — the thick fog, the blurring rain, and the view of the bridge once the storm cleared.

Lerro was piloting the Summit Venture, a 608-foot bulk freighter, when it collided with one of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge’s support columns. More than 1,200 feet of the bridge crumbled into Tampa Bay, and 35 people plunged to their deaths.

The film recounts the courtroom drama and the aftermath of the crash. A strong friendship developed between Lerro, who died in 2002 of complications from multiple sclerosis, and Yerrid, who delivered a eulogy at the funeral.

The program will begin at 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Tampa Theatre, with an introduction from Yerrid. Following the film, Yerrid and the filmmakers will answer questions from the audience. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $12.50, and will go on sale at noon Friday at the theater’s box office, 711 N Franklin St., Tampa, and online at tampatheatre.org.

Information from Times files and staff writer Paul Guzzo was used in this report.

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