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6 workers presumed dead after cargo ship crash levels Baltimore bridge

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  6 comments

By:   Julia Jester, Patrick Smith, Corky Siemaszko and Phil Helsel

6 workers presumed dead after cargo ship crash levels Baltimore bridge
The Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, partially collapsed early Tuesday, police said. It was hit by a ship, officials said.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


BALTIMORE — A major Baltimore bridge collapsed like a house of cards early Tuesday after it was struck by a container ship, sending six people to their deaths in the dark waters below and closing one of the country's busiest ports.

By Tuesday evening, search-and-rescue efforts for six people who were working on the bridge when it collapsed had transitioned into a recovery mission, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon N. Gilreath said.

"We do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," he said, noting the water temperature and the amount of time that had passed since the ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge and caused it to collapse around 1:30 a.m.

Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, earlier said that one person had survived. Their names were not released.

Earlier Tuesday as an extensive search was ongoing, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore held out hope that the missing people might be found and expressed heartbreak after officials suspended the active search for survivors.

"Our heart goes out to the families," he said after the active search was suspended. "I can't imagine how painful today has been for these families, how painful these hours have been have been for these families."

It was a crushing blow to the loved ones of the missing men, who had waited for hours at a Royal Farms convenience store near the entrance of the bridge for word of their fate.

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The tragic chain of events began early Tuesday when the cargo ship Dali notified authorities that it had lost power and issued a mayday moments before the 984-foot vessel slammed into a bridge support at a speed of 8 knots, which is about 9 mph.

Moore declared a state of emergency while rescue crews using sonar detected at least five vehicles in the frigid 50-foot-deep water: three passenger cars, a cement truck and another vehicle of some kind. Authorities do not believe anyone was inside the vehicles.

Investigators quickly concluded that it was an accident and not an act of terrorism.

Ship was involved in another collision


Earlier, two people were rescued from the water, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace said. One was in good condition and refused treatment, he said. The other was seriously injured and was being treated in a trauma center.

Moore said other drivers might have been in the water had it not been for the "folks" who, upon hearing the mayday, blocked off the bridge and kept other vehicles from crossing.

"These people are heroes," Moore said. "They saved lives."

Nearly eight years ago, the Dali was involved in an accident. In July 2016, it struck a quay at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Belgium, damaging the quay.

The nautical commission investigated the accident, but the details of the inquiry were not immediately clear Tuesday.

The Dali is operated and managed by Synergy Group. In a statement, the company said that two port pilots were at the helm at the time of Tuesday's crash and that all 22 crew members onboard were accounted for.

The Dali was chartered by the Danish shipping giant Maersk, which said it will have no choice but to send its ships to other nearby ports with the Port of Baltimore closed.

The bridge, which is about a mile and a half long and carries Interstate 695 over the Patapsco Riversoutheast of Baltimore, was "fully up to code," Moore said.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said that her agency will lead the investigation and that a data recorder on the ship could provide more information.

"But right now we're focusing on the people, on the families," she said. "The rest can wait."

President Joe Biden vowed to rebuild the bridge and send federal funds.

"This is going to take some time," the president warned. "The people of Baltimore can count on us though to stick with them, at every step of the way, till the port is reopened and the bridge is rebuilt."

Speaking in Baltimore, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg echoed the president's promise.

"This is no ordinary bridge," he said. "This is one of the cathedrals of American infrastructure."

But Buttigieg warned that replacing the bridge and reopening the port will take time and money and that it could affect supply chains.

The Port of Baltimore, the 11th largest in the U.S., is the busiest port for car imports and exports, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2023 alone, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration.

Writer David Simon, a champion of Baltimore who set his TV crime drama "The Wire" on the streets of the city he once covered as a reporter, warned online that the people who will suffer the most are those whose livelihoods depend on the port.

"Thinking first of the people on the bridge," Simon posted on X. "But the mind wanders to a port city strangling. All the people who rely on ships in and out."

Timeline of crash


Dramatic video captured the moment at 1:28 a.m. Tuesday when the Dali struck a support and sent the bridge tumbling into the water. A livestream showed cars and trucks on the bridge just before the strike. The ship did not sink, and its lights remained on.

Investigators said in a timeline that the Dali's lights suddenly shut off four minutes earlier before they came back on and that then, at 1:25 a.m. dark black smoke began billowing from the ship's chimney.

A minute later, at 1:26 a.m., the ship appeared to turn. And in the minutes before it slammed into the support, the lights flickered again.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said the workers on the bridge were repairing concrete ducts when the ship crashed into the structure.

At least seven workers were pouring concrete to fix potholes on the roadway on the bridge directly above where the ship hit, said James Krutzfeldt, a foreman.

Earlier, the Coast Guard said it had received a report that a "motor vessel made impact with the bridge" and confirmed it was the Dali, a containership sailing under a Singaporean flag that was heading for Sri Lanka.

Bobby Haines, who lives in Dundalk in Baltimore County, said he felt the impact of the bridge collapse from his house nearby.

"I woke up at 1:30 this morning and my house shook, and I was freaking out," he said. "I thought it was an earthquake, and to find out it was a bridge is really, really scary."

Families of bridge workers wait for updates


Earlier in the day, relatives of the construction crew waited for updates on their loved ones.

Marian Del Carmen Castellon told Telemundo her husband, Miguel Luna, 49, was working on the bridge.

"They only tell us that we have to wait and that they can't give us information," she said.

Castellon said she was "devastated, devastated because our heart is broken, because we don't know how they have been rescued yet. We are just waiting for the news."

Luna's co-worker Jesus Campos said he felt crushed, too.

"It hurts my heart to see what is happening. We are human beings, and they are my folks," he said.

Campos told The Baltimore Banner that the missing men are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Active search and rescue ends


The Coast Guard said it was suspending the active search-and-rescue effort at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Coast Guard's not going away, none of our partners are going away, but we're just going to transition into a different phase," Gilreath said at a news conference.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Roland L. Butler, Jr., said it was moving to a recovery operation. Changing conditions have made it dangerous for divers, he said.

Butler pledged to "do our very best to recover those six missing people," but the conditions are difficult.

"If we look at how challenging it is at a simple motor vehicle crash to extract an individual, I'm sure we can all imagine how much harder it is to do it in inclement weather, when it's cold, under the water, with very limited to no visibility," he said.

"There's a tremendous amount of debris in the water," which can include sharp metal and other hazards, and that could take time, Butler said.

'A long road in front of us'


Built in 1977 and referred to locally as the Key Bridge, the structure was later named after the author of the American national anthem.

The bridge is more than 8,500 feet long, or 1.6 miles. Its main section spans 1,200 feet, and it was one of the longest continuous truss bridges in the world upon its completion, according to the National Steel Bridge Alliance.

About 31,000 vehicles a day use the bridge, which equals 11.3 million vehicles per year, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The river and the Port of Baltimore are both key to the shipping industry on the East Coast, generating more than $3.3 billion a year and directly employing more than 15,000 people.

Asked what people in Baltimore can expect going forward, the state's transportation secretary said it is too early to tell.

"Obviously we reached out to a number of engineering companies, so obviously we have a long road in front of us," Wiedefeld said.

The Associated Press and Melissa Chan contributed.


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Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1  Vic Eldred    3 weeks ago

Joe Biden says the federal government will rebuild the bridge, but if the ship was at fault, why wouldn't the owners have to pay?

I read that the owners will be in Baltimore today.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Quiet
1.1  Freefaller  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    3 weeks ago
why wouldn't the owners have to pay?

Lol maybe they will in 500 years when the lawyers for both sides have played all their cards

 
 
 
Snuffy
Professor Participates
1.2  Snuffy  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    3 weeks ago

I believe the way it was explained is that the federal government will lead the effort to rebuild and will use federal money to speed up the process. They can go after the owners later but as it was pointed out, once the lawyers are involved it becomes a very slow moving mess. 

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
2  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago
 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
3  Drinker of the Wry    3 weeks ago

The good blue people of Maryland need a new name when the bridge is rebuilt, we don't need a new bridge named after the virulent racist, Francis Scott Key. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
3.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @3    3 weeks ago

I suggest the "Malcom Little Bridge."

 
 

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