ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The heroic actions of seaman apprentice William Flores are now on display.
Family and friends of the fallen guardsman paid tribute to his sacrifice.
“We are extremely proud to have him honored in this fashion,” said Sam Flores, William’s brother.
Today we honored Seaman Apprentice William Flores who helped save many CG members on the night of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision 40 years ago. His statue for the Circle of Heroes was unveiled in a ceremony w/ his family and survivors of the accident. pic.twitter.com/8iydgvf33m— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) January 27, 2020
“It’s a work of art,” said Sam Flores.
Flores was only 18 years old when the Cutter Blackthorn, a 180-foot buoy tender, crashed with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on January 28, 1980.
The crash killed 23 of the 50 crew members on board. It's considered the Coast Guard's worst peacetime disaster.
“I feel like his efforts not only saved my life,” said Steve Coleman, friend and fellow USCG member. “But several of us in the water.”
The accident was considered the worse peace-time disaster in USCG history.
“We save lives,” Sam said. “That was his theme in several letters he wrote. We save lives… how cool is that?”
It is that motto Flores carried out until his death. USGC credited him with saving the lives of countless others nearly 40 years ago.
“This statue will also serve to memorialize the Flores family’s sacrifice and serve as an enduring example of the sacrifice many of our Coast Guard members make and sometimes with the gravest of consequences.”
Flores’ statue will join 12 others added to the Circle of Heroes, the first underwater memorial.
Honoring our veterans 10 miles off the Clearwater coast.
The Circle of Heroes opened to divers on August of 2019 thanks to donations.
“This is another great tribute to a great man,” said Steve Coleman, friend and fellow USGS member. “I am very thankful to be here today.”