The wreckage of a Greyhound bus that carried 23 persons to their deaths was pulled from Tampa Bay today, and another sumberged car was revealed.
Seven bodies were recovered during the day, bringing the number of bodies found to 25. Officials believe that the total number of deaths may approach 33.
Bodies of victims bobbed to the surface as salvage crews raised the bus, which plunged 150 feet into the water Friday morning when a freighter struck the Sunshine Skyway, causing a 1,200-foot section of the bridge's southbound span to collapse. At least three other cars and a pickup truck also were tossed into the water.
Initially, it was believed that 31 persons had died in the disaster, but today divers found the previously undetected automobile with two victims inside.
Officials said they were afraid that other undetected vehicles of victims may be buried under huge chunks of roadway at the bottom of the bay.
A large steam-powered crane aboard a barge was used to pull the bus from the water.
The battered bus illustrated the terrible force with which the vehicle struck. Its roof was torn away and its frame was bent and misshapen.
The Florida Highway Patrol, meanwhile, said that the northbound span of the Skyway, which connects St. Petersburg with the lower Gulf Coast has been opened to two-way traffic.
The Florida Department of Transportation also announced tht the debris-clogged channel could be cleared and reopened to shipping in five days if favorable weather continues.
Thirty ships are stuck in the Tampa harbor, the nation's seventh busiest port, and authorities have said tht Friday's accident is costing the port $1 million a day in revenues.
Douglas Rabe, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said that the board's inquiry -- to be conducted jointly with the Coast Guard -- probably will begin Tuesday in Tampa.
Officials will seek to determine why the 609-foot phosphate freighter Summit Venture struck the bridge during a violent squall Friday morning.
Of particular interest will be the performance of John Lerro, the ship's pilot. According to the Coast Guard, Lerro has been involved in two other accidents in the past five months.
One of those accidents occurred on Feb. 16 when the Jonna Dan, a ship Lerro was piloting, struck the Skyway. The damage in that mishap was minor and no one was injured.
On Dec. 3, Lerro was involved in an accident when he was piloting the Strait of Casino, which struck a dock at the National Gypsum Co. in Tampa.
Those accidents are still under investigation and no determination of cause or blame has been formally made.
Authorities are investigating Friday's accident to determine if criminal negligence charges are warranted
Attempts to reach Lerro for comment have been unsuccessful. No one answered the door this afternoon at his shrubbery-shrouded home in Odessa, a rural community near Tampa.
The captain of the Liberian -registered Summit Venture has been identified as H. C. Liu, a resident of Hong Kong. All 35 members of the freighter's crew are Chinese.