William Flores

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William Ray Flores

Seaman Apprentice William R. Flores, USCG
Born November 6, 1961[1]
Died 1980-01-28
USCGC Blackthorn, Tampa Bay, Florida
Awards Coast Guard medal
Namesake of USCGC William Flores

William Ray Flores was a seaman in the United States Coast Guard, notable for heroic behavior during a 1980 ship collision.[2] In November 2011 Flores was honored by having the third of Coast Guard's Sentinel class cutters named after him.[3][4][5][6] All the vessels in this class are to be named after heroic members of the Coast Guard.

Flores was born and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and, with his parents' permission, left high school early, in order to enlist in his country's service.[5]

On January 28, 1980, 18-year-old Flores stayed aboard the USCGC Blackthorn as it was sinking following a collision with a tanker, Capricorn, and helped save some of his fellow crewmates, at the cost of his own life.[3][5] Flores and a colleague threw their life jackets to seamen struggling in the water without life jackets. He strapped the life jacket locker open, so remaining life jackets would be released as the vessel sank. He then tried to aid wounded seamen who were still aboard. The collision has been described as the worst peacetime disaster in the Coast Guard's history.[7]

Flores was awarded the Coast Guard medal, the highest peace time medal the Coast Guard awards, in 2000, twenty years after the collision.[5][7] The Fort Worth Star Telegram cited passages from the citation for Flores medal:

  • "remained behind to strap the life jacket locker door open with his own belt, thereby contributing to the survival of struggling shipmates who retrieved life jackets as they floated to the surface."[5]
  • "Even after most of the crew members abandoned ship, Seaman Apprentice Flores, with complete disregard for his own safety, remained on the inverted hull to assist trapped shipmates and provide aid and comfort to injured and disoriented shipmates."[5]


  1. "William Ray Flores (1961 - 1980) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Flores&GSfn=William+&GSmn=Ray&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=26116866&df=all&. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  2. Patrick McMahon (1980-02-07). "'Hard right rudder': 'Blackthorn' skipper gave command too late, crewman testifies". Petersburg Times. p. 1, 8. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FuQnAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PVoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6801,5003607&dq=coast-guard+william-ray-flores+. Retrieved 2011-12-02. "Twenty-three Coast Guard crewmen died in the accident. Still to come are autopay results of other crewmen, some of whose bodies are being still recovered from the bay. The body of William R. Flores was found Tuesday." 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Monika Diaz (2011-11-28). "Coast Guard remembers former crewman's actions, 31 years later". WFAA. http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Coast-Guard-remembers-former-crewmans-actions-31-years-later-134642688.html. Retrieved 2011-12-02. "In January of 1980, Flores was on a Coast Guard cutter when it collided with a tanker near Tampa Bay, Florida. While some of the crew abandoned ship, Flores stayed behind. He helped trapped and injured shipmates."  mirror
  4. "USCG’s Third Fast Response Cutter Launched". Military.com. 2011-11-29. http://www.military.com/news/article/coast-guard-news/new-cg-cutter-named-for-local-hero.html. Retrieved 2011-12-02. "The vessel was named after Seaman Apprentice William Flores, who posthumously received the Coast Guard Medal, the service’s highest award for heroism not involving combat, for his role in the Jan. 28, 1980 collision between the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and the tanker Capricorn."  mirror
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Chris Vaughn (2011-11-29). "New CG Cutter Named for Local Hero". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/11/26/3552733/new-coast-guard-cutter-bears-name.html. Retrieved 2011-12-02. "Two decades after Flores' actions, somehow overlooked in the aftermath of the Coast Guard's worst peacetime disaster, he was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal, the highest decoration that service can bestow. The Coast Guard chose to name its latest fast-response cutter after Flores."  mirror
  6. "Third Fast Response Cutter Launched by Coast Guard". Maritime Executive. 2011-11-30. http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/third-fast-response-cutter-launched-by-coast-guard. Retrieved 2011-12-02.  mirror
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Getting his due Coast Guard hero receives honor posthumously". Fort Worth Star Telegram. 2000-09-17. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=ST&s_site=dfw&p_multi=ST&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EAF9298B7BF1FC5&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2011-12-02. "The actions of Seaman Apprentice William Ray "Billy" Flores were somehow overlooked as officials investigated the worst peacetime disaster in Coast Guard history. But a few officers didn't forget."