What We Know About the Bridge Collapse in Baltimore

by TexasDigitalMagazine.com


Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Early Tuesday morning, a container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing the structure to collapse into the Patapsco River below. Maryland governor Wes Moore has declared a state of emergency as search teams comb the frigid waters for at least six people who are currently missing following the collapse. Here’s what we know so far about the incident.

At 1:27 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard was notified that a 948-foot container ship had struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, resulting in a collapse of the bridge. During an initial press conference, fire officials said the department received a call at 1:40 a.m. about a water rescue in the area of the bridge with more reports continuing to come in. Units began to arrive on the scene at 1:50 a.m.; they reported that the bridge had fully collapsed and that there were likely several people on it when the ship struck the structure.

Search-and-rescue teams have saved two people so far. One person was unharmed and refused treatment while another was transported to a nearby trauma center “in very serious condition.” Baltimore fire chief James Wallace told reporters early that morning that teams are searching for “upwards of seven people” but said that figure was preliminary and could change as the search continues. Sonar has detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water.

During a subsequent press conference, officials confirmed that eight people were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, with two of them now accounted for. The Baltimore Banner reports that the missing people are believed to be members of a construction crew contracted by Brawner Builders that were working on the bridge repairing potholes when the ship struck. Another employee of the company told the outlet that the missing crew members are married fathers in their 30s-40s who hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The Coast Guard is taking part in the search, providing three small boats, an 87-foot-long patrol boat, and a helicopter. The FBI’s Baltimore office said on social media that its personnel are on the scene alongside its “local, state and federal partners.” National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters Tuesday that a team of 24 experts will be taking part in the agency’s investigation. Homendy said the search-and-rescue mission, which the NTSB isn’t apart of, is currently taking priority, but that the agency will be looking into a number of things including the ship’s recorder and whether the vessel dropped anchor.

“We chose not to board the vessel today to allow some time for the search and recovery, which we did not want to interfere with,” she said.

Governor Moore issued an official state of emergency, saying in a statement that his office is working to “quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration.” The governor told reporters that the incident did not appear to be the result of a deliberate attack. “The preliminary investigation points to an accident. We haven’t seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack,” he said.

President Joe Biden commented on the collapse this afternoon, offering his prayers to everyone involved in the incident and indicating that he intends to travel to Baltimore as soon as possible. “It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge and I expect the Congress to support my effort,” he said. “This is going to take some time and the people of Baltimore can count on us though to stick with them at every step of the way until the port is reopened and the bridge is rebuilt.”

The ship involved in the incident is the Singapore-flagged cargo ship Dali, which was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. An unclassified memo from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the Coast Guard reported that the Dali had “lost propulsion” as it was leaving Baltimore Harbor, per CBS News. The ship notified the local transportation department that it had lost control of the vessel.

Moore said that the ship was able to issue a “mayday” call which allowed officials to halt traffic prior to the bridge collapse, likely saving more lives.

Synergy Marine Group, the company operating the ship, said in a statement that its two pilots and its entire crew have all been accounted for and there are currently no reports of injuries. CNN reports that the ship was using local pilots to navigate the ship, a common occurrence that is meant to minimize situations like this.

The New York Times reports that an inspection of the Dali at a Chilean port last year found an issue concerning “propulsion and auxiliary machinery,” relating to thermometers and gauges on the vessel.

The 1.6-mile-long bridge was part of I-695 and was one of Baltimore’s toll crossings. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Francis Scott Key Bridge transported 12.4 million passenger and commercial vehicles in 2023.

The Maryland Transportation Authority is diverting traffic from the area of the bridge, urging commuters to use I-95 or I-895 instead. The Port of Baltimore announced that vessel traffic in and out of the port is suspended indefinitely following the collapse, but said that trucks are still being processed within its terminals.

The FAA has implemented flight restrictions around the site of the collapse, issuing a warning on social media to drone pilots to not interfere with emergency operations.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the loss of the bridge in a major port city like Baltimore will greatly affect trade. “There is no question that this will be a major and protracted impact to supply chains. It’s too soon to offer estimates on what it will take to clear the channel and reopen the port,” he said.

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