Bruce Atkins was 32 years old, an experienced mariner, and an apprentice harbor pilot in Tampa Bay. It was his last training mission, and he was shadowing Captain John Lerro, as Lerro steered the 606 foot cargo ship Summit Venture through the twists and turns of the shipping channel in the shallow bay.
May 9th, 1980, was a rainy, misty morning -- but not unusual Florida weather. No one predicted the sudden, freak storm with gale force winds, that seemed to come out of nowhere.
"It became a blinding, driving, rain, wind," Atkins recalls.