John Lerro had safely guided ships in and out of the Port of Tampa, and Port Manatee, for more than three years before the events of May 9, 1980 turned his life upside down. Thirty-five people, in seven cars and a passenger bus, died when the vessel under his command struck the western span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge during a sudden, violent storm. Those are the facts – but the rest of the story, both before and after that terrible tragedy, has faded into history, and in the memories of many, Lerro is the reckless perpetrator of the world’s worst ship/bridge disaster.
The thing about memory, though, is that it’s selective. And the passage of time really does a number on it. How much do you really know about Captain Lerro and the Skyway Bridge?
Bill DeYoung (writer and director) is a St. Petersburg native. A veteran journalist, he worked at newspapers around Florida for more than 35 years. He is the author of Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down and Phil Gernhard Record Man (both published by University Press of Florida), and the St. Petersburg Press books I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews, Vintage St. Pete: The Golden Age of Tourism and More and Vintage St. Pete Volume II: Legends, Locations, Lifestyles. He is Senior Writer and Editor at the St. Pete Catalyst.
Michael Horn is a St. Pete native, an actor, artist, prop-maker, effects engineer, and technical jack-of-all-trades, you can find some of his creations at http://michaelhorn.art.
Michael returns as Captain John Lerro after a successful run in 2021. Other favorite roles include John Oldman in Jerome Bixby's sci-fi classic THE MAN FROM EARTH, genius mathematician Alan Turing in Hugh Whitemore's non-fiction BREAKING THE CODE, Evilix in the musical Star Trek parody STAR CHIX, and Henry Baskerville in the on-stage radio show adaption of HOUNDS OF THE BASKERVILLES. He also operated the man-eating plant puppets in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Michael is very excited to bring MAYDAY to Tampa Bay's newest professional theater, Studio Grand Central!