Read the FHP report on the bus crash that delayed the parade
Pirates wandering Bayshore Boulevard in a daze is par for the course today.
But pirates wandering the LeRoy Selmon Expressway?
That’s what happened after one charter bus full of Gasparilla revelers hit another while getting off the expressway, and after a third bus then hit the second bus, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Three passengers were taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital with injuries described as non-incapacitating. Three other passengers suffered possible injuries.
Two of the bus drivers were cited for careless driving. The buses were operated by Nemo Express Tours of Apollo Beach.
The crash occurred about 1:40 p.m., right before the scheduled 2 p.m. start of the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates. It delayed the parade by about 30 minutes, Tampa police said.
Here’s the crash narrative straight from the report by state Trooper M. W. Corrao. “V01”, “V02” and “V03” refer to the buses. SR 618 is the expressway. The exit ramp is at Platt Street.
"V02 was traveling westbound SR 618 in the outside exit lane at approximately MM 5. V01 was traveling directly behind V02.
"V03 was traveling directly behind V01. As V02 entered the exit ramp at MM 5, V02 began to slow down. V01 failed to slow down / stop for V02 and struck the rear of V02 with the front of V01. Immediately after collision, V03 failed to stop for the traffic crash ahead and struck the rear of V01 with the front of V03.
"V02 came to final rest westbound SR 618 on the exit ramp at MM 5 facing west. V01 came to final rest directly behind V02 facing west. V03 came to final rest directly behind V01 facing west.
"All drivers advised V01 struck V02 prior to V03 striking V01.
"All three charter buses were transporting its passengers to the Gasparilla Parade in downtown Tampa.
"Upon my arrival, there were approximately fifty to sixty passengers walking around the crash scene. I was advised by Tampa Police officers and other subjects involved in the traffic crash the several occupants had left the scene. I was advised that some occupants walked off of the exit ramp and that others were picked up by other passing vehicles. I was advised that the passengers leaving were trying to get to the parade.
"While on scene, several occupants were leaving or trying to leave. I advised all occupants I encountered that if they leave now they will not be placed in the crash report. I explained that any subjects that need to be placed on the crash report should stay and provide there info. I explained this to subjects as they were walking away from the crash. I also entered two substitute buses that were there to transport the remaining passengers to the parade. Some occupants left the bus and provided there information. They were placed in the crash report.
“There were three occupants that were transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital. I was able to make contact with these subjects at the hospital.
“I was unable to identify any other passengers. No other information on any other passengers were provided to me.”
- Dennis Joyce
Jill Kelley, Jameis Winston honor heroes at Bayshore party
From his wheelchair on the lawn of a Bayshore mansion, Mike Delancey took in the craziness of Gasparilla in comfort and safety.
"It's been awesome," said Delancey, 33, of Pinellas Park. "I've tried to watch the parade before but it was very hard to move around."
Delancey, a Marine injured in Iraq in 2006, was one of about 10 wounded veterans to attend a party hosted for veterans by Jill and Scott Kelley.
Delancey runs the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch in Pinellas Park. The ranch, which opened Sept. 1, offers a place for those in wheelchairs to strengthen body and mind through outdoor activities like fishing, sailing and kayaking.
This is the fifth Gasparilla party for veterans hosted by Scott Kelley, a physician, and his wife Jill, a well-known Tampa socialite most recently in the public eye for writing a memoir about her role in the sex scandal that brought down CIA director David Petraeus in 2016.
“We just want to give these heroes a safe place to watch the parade,” Scott Kelley said.
The veterans also got a chance to meet a real Buccaneer, Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who attended with his 6-month-old son.
“I was blessed to be invited by Mr. and Mrs. Kelley,” Winston said. “Being with these wounded veterans really puts things in perspective.”
Winston added that he wanted his son to experience being around people who have given so much.
“I wanted to show my son real heroes."
- Howard Altman
Ubering? Move away first
Anticipating heavy traffic, rideshare firm Uber advised customers to leave main parade areas before requesting a ride any time between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
“Our goal is to ensure anyone can push a button and get a ride, even on one of the busiest days of the year in Tampa Bay,” said spokesman Javi Correoso.
The company typically raises fares during periods of high demand, known as surge pricing. Correoso said riders will see the fares upfront before booking a ride.
- Christopher O’Donnell
Toll: twisted ankles, busted lips
Tampa Fire Rescue officials erected a pair of tents near the parade route, one at the Kate Jackson Community Center, the other at Gorrie Elementary School. The mobile treatment areas are a temporary hub for all Gasparilla-related illness and injury.
Inside, paramedics and nurses treat the fallen on wheeled beds.
“It ranges from twisted ankles to people who are highly intoxicated,” said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny.
Patients arrive on mobile units, which are essentially elongated golf carts designed to transport the sick and injured from the parade route.
“Instead of trying to send an ambulance into the middle of the parade, it gives them better access to where they’re needed.”
Capt. William Supple stood outside the Kate Jackson tent about 4 p.m. So far, the team had seen six patients, he said. But they were bracing for many more.
“In years past, we did about 26 in two hours,” he said.
Not long after, they began coming in waves.
A man in a red bandanna and wearing pirate garb arrived on a gurney, clutching his forehead and moaning.
Medics wheeled him inside the tent. They started an IV and hooked him up to a heart monitor.
“You’re too drunk to go back to the parade,” he was told. “You’re going to have to go to the hospital.”
Cradling his head and quivering, he reluctantly agreed.
“We really get going right about now,” Supple said.
An electric generator rumbled outside as a young woman approached the tent with an ice pack pressed to her mouth.
“Busted lip,” she told the medics.
They guided her to a chair.
Another man arrived on a mobile unit and was placed on a wheeled bed.
“Are you allergic to any medication?”
He mumbled a response.
- Dan Sullivan
A lesson in beckoning for beads
His family hustled Joshua Howard to the very end of the Gasparilla parade, just as Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the first units – their two-hour trek finally finished – walked and rolled by.
Joshua, 14, of St. Petersburg, was born with a brain abnormality known as semi-lobar holoprosencephaly and uses a wheelchair to get around. He enjoys the annual parade and is attending his fourth one, said his mother, Leslie Camacho, 31.
The teenager got a lesson from his mom’s fiancé, Angel Figueroa, 37, in how to beckon for beads from the passing floats. He also got a visit from some pirate women who were happy to share some of theirs and pose with him for photos.
Joshua wheeled away from the parade fence at the loud boom of the floats’ cannons, but moved back in place to hear the beat of the high school bands that followed.
His family usually arrives in time to set up at the start of the parade, but they were late this time. Seeing it from the end was different, Camacho said -- not so many people to nudge past.
“It’s better,” she said with a smile, turning to point out the bouncing Tampa Bay Lightning float to her delighted son.
- Dennis Joyce
Saving the seas through drink
Amid the revelry along the north end of Tampa’s Riverwalk, Axel Francisco and Timothy Cox asked pirate-costumed partiers if they want to help save sea turtles.
Francisco and Cox, both clad in green T-shirts, are employees of the Nature Conservancy, the worldwide environmental advocacy group. They worked the crowds at Gasparilla on the theory that the aquatic inclinations of a pirate-themed festival might evoke sympathy for the plight of the world’s ocean life.
The theory proved correct.
“A lot of people have given money,” Francisco said.
Their effort reflected something of a tradeoff, though.
Francisco, 23, of Key West, winced every time she saw a string of plastic beads flung into the Hillsborough River.
“A dolphin will literally die if it eats that,” she said. “I know people are just trying to have fun. They don’t realize the implications of their actions.”
But as the day wore on, she was delighted to see a boat full of people pull up to scoop refuse from the water.
As the Nature Conservancy crew solicited passersby, some inebriated celebrants appeared pleased just to stop and stand in one place for a moment. Others listened eagerly to the crews sad accounts of deteriorating coral reefs.
“People tend to be more empathetic," Francisco said, “when they’re drunk.”
- Daniel Sullivan
MacDill commander: 'Incredible’
Air Force Col. Steve Snelson, commander of MacDill Air Force Base, and his wife Catherine are enjoying their first Gasparilla festival.
“Words cannot describe what Gasparilla is about,” said Snelson, who took command of the base in June. "It is an amazing experience that is part of what makes Tampa so incredibly special "
That the parade honors a mythical pirate "doesn’t matter, " said Snelson. “Whatever it takes to get the city of Tampa together.”
Catherine Snelson said she "wasn't prepared for the scope of this. This is crazy."
As men and women dressed up in their faux-brigand finest walked by, Snelson was awed.
"Look at all these people dressed like Pirates walking around weighted down by beads. It’s incredible. "
Bus crash delayed parade 30 minutes; 2 hospitalized
Tampa Fire Rescue confirmed that charter buses carrying participants to the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates were involved in a rear-end collision during the hours before the parade, sending two people to the hospital and delaying the event for about half an hour.
The collision involved three buses and occurred on the Leroy Selmon Expressway at the Plat Street exit, said Jason Penny, fire rescue spokesman.
- Dan Sullivan
Police: Crash delays parade start
Tampa police have confirmed that the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates, set to start rolling up Bayshore Boulevard at 2 p.m., was delayed for a time because of some kind of a crash involving a bus. No other details were immediately available.
The good news: The parade is underway now!
Sandwiches, chips and Amaretto
Steve and Gina Wright arrived at 10:30 a.m to snag a prize spot along Bayshore Boulevard for Gasparilla.
The couple, who have been married for 24 years, traveled from Zephyrhills with two grandchildren, a nephew and a wagon loaded with sandwiches, chips and Amaretto.
Steve Wright, who drives a school bus in Pasco County, reckons this will be his 45th parade but said he has never dressed like a pirate.
“I just love the atmosphere,” he said.
“Sometimes he let’s me paint his face,” Gina Wright said.
- Christopher O’Donnell
Images from land and sea
Whether you’ve made it to Gasparilla or not, you can check out scenes from one end of the festivities to the other in this All-Eyes Gallery from the photo staff of the Tampa Bay Times.
Sea shanties? No, Reggae Mon!
Pirates might once have been fond of the songs known as sea shanties, but the soundtrack is all reggae at Ron Salzman’s Gasparilla Party,
Salzman, 55, has been hosting Reggae Gasparilla for 15 years at his home two blocks from Bayshore Boulevard. This year’s event includes Jerk Hut catering and a live reggae band.
“Everybody loves reggae, everybody loves Gasparilla, and everybody loves Jamaican food, he said.
- Christopher O’Donnell
Jon Stewart honors real warriors
Like two old friends at a reunion, Jon Stewart grabbed Israel Del Toro and started wrestling with him.
The scene was on Bayshore Boulevard in front of the Department of Defense Warrior Games float.
"This is like Mardi Gras," Stewart told Del Toro as they both took in the craziness of their first Gasparilla parade.
Stewart, 56, the comedian famous for creating The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel, is in town to ride the float to help publicize the adaptive sports contest for wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans.
Stewart and Del Toro, 43, have know each other for a few years.
Del Toro was badly burned in Afghanistan in 2005 when his vehicle was hit by an IED. Del Toro, a tactical air control party member who helped maintain communications between ground forces and air assets, said that his vehicle was targeted because the enemy knew the value of taking out those who make that communications link.
He's competed in several games.
Stewart has served as the games' master of ceremonies for the past four years.
On June 21, when the games come to Tampa, it will mark his fifth time as emcee.
"To get to do this in a city like Tampa that gives so much support to the military is amazing."
Know for his biting topical satire, Stewart said he got involved with the Warrior Games as an offshoot of precious visits to see the wounded at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“I have opinions and I wanted to make sure they were informed,” said Stewart. “You can’t help but be inspired by the quality of these people.”
Stewart said that his personal point of view has never gotten in the way of his camaraderie with the wounded.
"We've had some spirited discussions," he said with a laugh.
As if to underscore that, he smiled broadly upon seeing Mike Nicholson, a combat-wounded medically retired Marine from Tampa who lost three limbs in Afghanistan in 2011.
When the games were in Chicago, Nicholson, a Plant High grad won gold medals.
“This guy was a stud,” Stewart said with a laugh. “He killed it in Chicago.”
Army Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas III, outgoing leader of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, said the float “is a great way to publicize the games,” which run from June 21 to 30 and are expected to bring in some 300 athletes.
Thomas, who was instrumental in bringing the games to Tampa, won’t be commander when they come. He’s is retiring and will be replaced by Army Gen. Richard Clarke.
“It’s a big bummer,” Thomas said. "But we just bought a home here. We’ll be here. "
Speaking of Tampa traditions, Stewart said he thought he was coming to experience an event honoring history and seemed crestfallen to learn that the pirate Jose Gaspar is largely a myth.
“I really got all excited,” he said. “But at least I have a chance to experience Mardi Gras in Tampa.”
- Howard Altman
One hot ticket!
The hottest ticket at Gasparilla might just be the parade route party thrown by Harry Burkett, president and chief executive of Amalie Oil.
The company has four high price parade tents on Bayshore Blvd where up to 500 invited guests will enjoy an open bar and catered lunch and dinner. There’s also a professional make-up artist adorning guests with fake scars and wounds.
As if that wasn’t enough, the party will move across the street to the upscale house owned by Barkett and his wife, Carmen Barkett. And to ensure no gate crashers, there are at least 16 law enforcement officers from Polk County and New Port Richey stationed around the home and the tent entrances.
Among those in the line to enter was Fishhawk resident Sabrina Wilkins, whose precious invite came from a friend of the Burkett’s.
“I’m so excited,” she said.
- Christopher O’Donnell
In place for the parade
Have whiskey, will wander
Johnard Garcia, 25, of Orlando came to his first Gasparilla with sisters Clarisse, 26, and Charmaine.
They were getting ready to watch the floats and catch some beads while hanging out at the corner of Bayshore and Edison.
Rebecca Janaes, 25, of Tampa, was putting the whole crew up at a friend’s place nearby.
Johnard was sipping a drink he had poured into a water bottle.
“It’s mostly whiskey,” he said.
Amber Vo, 23, and Nalisa Kanya, 23, we’re eager for the festivities to begin.
Wander Bayshore and imbibe some of whiskey Johnard was hauling around in his backpack.
- Charlie Frago
A pirate in pink
Cameron Bucheister’s bandana screams pirate. The rest of his Gasparilla outfit? Not so much.
The 21-year-old Florida Institute of Technology student decided that pink shorts and not much else was the right garb for this year’s Gasparilla parade.
He admitted to feeling a little cold in the breezy, 60-degree weather, but happy nevertheless.
“I can be myself here,” he said.
A psychology student, Bucheister traveled to Tampa with friends from Melbourne.
- Christopher O’Donnell
Noles get pirate on
As a Tampa native, Emily McManus didn’t want to miss out on Gasparilla.
Now a student at Florida State, that meant a late night trip from Tallahassee on Friday night to be here.
She brought a few college friends, too, who also were getting their pirate on this morning in Hyde Park.
The group has been planning the trip for the past month and includes three first timers.
“We’ve tried to warn them,” McManus said. “I told them it’s like Mardi Gras.”
Do pirates wear kilts?
Chuck Davis and John Paul Howard are in a krewe but they don’t claim to be pirates.
Dressed in black shirts and green plaid kilts, the two friends are members of the Krewe of Shamrock, which proudly bills itself as Tampa Bay’s first kilted Krewe.
Close to 50 members gathered on Saturday morning close to the Tampa Bay Times building before taking a coach ride to the staging area of the parade.
So it had to be asked: Just what does a krewe member wear underneath the kilt?
“If you wear underwear, it’s a skirt,” said Davis, smiling. “I’m wearing a kilt.”
“But it’s windy today so we have to be careful,” added Howard.
The Shamrock Krewe was founded in 1999, so today is its 20th appearance in Gasparilla, said Davis, 51.
The krewe was founded by members of Shriners who claim Scottish ancestry.
- Christopher O’Donnell
'It’s Mardis Gras with pirates’
Brothers Matthew , 28, and Chris Miller, 25, of St. Petersburg, are Gasparilla regulars, sons of Scott Miller, a member of Ye Mystic Krewe of Neptune.
“What other city has this? It’s unique to Tampa,” said Chris, as they stopped along the Tampa Riverwalk at MacDill Park.
“If you live in Tampa Bay, you have to go at least once,” added Matthew. “New Orleans has Mardi Gras, but they don’t have pirates.
Chris, a law school graduate, is studying for the bar. Matthew is in podiatry school.
- Charlie Frago
'We have fun getting dressed up’
Tam and Joe Gorski, both 58, split their time between The Villages and Mystic, Conn., but you’ll find them along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa this time of year.
This is their third Gasparilla parade.
“We have fun getting dressed up for it,” said Tam.
Added Joe: "Tampa is a fun town.”
- Charlie Frago
Life of the Party:
We go deep on Gasparilla with staff pirate historian Christopher Spata.