Click “play” above to watch Culture Editor Bill DeYoung’s full talk at the Vinoy Business Alliance.
St. Petersburg journalist and author Bill DeYoung, arts editor at the St. Pete Catalyst, spoke to the Vinoy Business Alliance Jan. 15 about his nonfiction book Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down.
Published in 2013, Skyway is a thorough investigation into the 1980 disaster in which an incoming freighter, M/V Summit Venture, struck the Sunshine Skyway Bridge during a sudden, violent storm. Nearly 1,300 feet of roadway collapsed into Tampa Bay, with 35 motorists – many of them passengers in a southbound Greyhound bus – plummeting 150 feet to their deaths.
Using vintage photographs, rare news video and courtroom testimony, DeYoung’s power point presentation brought to light many little-known facts about the bridge, the ship, and Tampa harbor pilot John Lerro, who was vilified in the media and shunned by the Florida Department of Professional Regulation, the organization that had hired him.
Despite full exoneration – he was ultimately held blameless for the incident, which was deemed to be the cause of a previously-unknown type of extreme weather cell – Lerro lived the rest of his life as a pariah in his community, and unable to continue piloting because of the onset of multiple sclerosis.
During a conversation with Vinoy Business Alliance director Mike McNally, DeYoung revealed he has written a one-man play, Mayday, in which actor Michael Horn will portray the tormented pilot.
Directed by Roxanne Fay, Mayday will premiere May 9 – the 40th anniversary of the Skyway disaster, at Opera Central in St. Petersburg.
McNally also asked DeYoung about his other books, Phil Gernhard Record Man and I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews.