Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down

On the morning of May 9, 1980, harbor pilot John Lerro was guiding a 600-foot freighter, Summit Venture, into Florida’s Tampa Bay. Directly in the ship’s path was the Sunshine Skyway Bridge – two ribbons of concrete, steel and asphalt that crossed fifteen miles of open water. Suddenly, a violent weather cell reduced visibility to zero, at the precise moment when Lerro attempted to direct the 20,000-ton vessel underneath the summit of the massive bridge. Unable to stop or see where he was going, Lerro drove the ship into a support pier; the southbound span splintered and collapsed into the bay. Seven cars and a Greyhound bus drove blindly over the broken edge and fell 150 feet into the churning water below. Thirty-five people died. Skyway tells the entire story of this horrific event, from the circumstances that led up to it through the years-long legal proceedings that followed. Through personal interviews and extensive research, Bill DeYoung pieces together the harrowing moments of the collision, including the first-person accounts of witnesses and survivors.

Among those whose lives were changed forever was Wesley MacIntire, the motorist whose pickup truck ricocheted off the hull of Summit Venture and sank. Although he was the lone survivor, MacIntire, like Lerro, was emotionally scarred and remained haunted by the tragedy for the rest of his life. Similarly, DeYoung details the downward spiral of Lerro’s life, his vilification in the days and weeks that followed the accident, and his obsession with the tragedy well into his painful last years.

Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down (University Press of Florida)


“It’s hard to elicit raw terror in book form, especially in the opening pages … that’s why well-crafted nonfiction, such as Bill DeYoung’s Skyway, can induce frights greater than most horror novels.”

                                       Vince Darcangelo, Ensuing Chapters


“Bill DeYoung’s meticulous reconstruction of how Florida’s mightiest bridge was built and then destroyed is a compelling read, full of telling details and tragic irony.”

Craig Pittman, author of The Scent of Scandal


“DeYoung re-creates the day of the disaster skillfully, with both hold-your-breath suspense and a careful breakdown of cause and effect.”

Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times


“An intimately detailed account of this disaster, its victims and the survivors, the legal aftermath, as well as a complete history of the bridge, old and new. His story reads like a novel.”

Lee Scott, Florida Times-Union


“In his moment-by-moment narration of the 1980 disaster, DeYoung creates the intensity we are used to finding in mystery thrillers…”

Phil Jason, Florida Weekly


“This book kept me up late. It is that well written. Not only a story about America’s worst bridge disaster, it is a documented case study of the harbor pilot who became the fall guy for the bridge’s collapse.”

JHD Scot,


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