Six people presumed dead after Baltimore Key Bridge collapses, Coast Guard says

The six people disappeared after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed when a container ship hit it early Tuesday morning. Officials have now shifted from searching to recovery efforts.

Tragedy struck early Tuesday morning in Baltimore as a major bridge collapsed following a collision with a container ship, claiming the lives of six individuals and prompting the closure of one of the nation’s busiest ports.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon N. Gilreath confirmed that efforts had shifted from search-and-rescue to recovery, expressing little hope of finding survivors given the circumstances. The collision occurred around 1:30 a.m., plunging workers on the Francis Scott Key Bridge into the dark waters below. While one person reportedly survived, their identity remains undisclosed.

Throughout the day, loved ones anxiously awaited news of the missing individuals, gathering at a nearby convenience store for updates. Maryland Governor Wes Moore remained optimistic amidst the ongoing search efforts, though the situation grew increasingly dire.

The incident unfolded when the cargo ship Dali, experiencing power loss, issued a distress call before colliding with the bridge support at a speed of about 9 mph. The impact led to the bridge’s collapse and the subsequent discovery of several vehicles submerged in the water. While no occupants were found inside, the tragedy sent shockwaves through the community.

In response, Governor Moore declared a state of emergency as rescue teams utilized sonar technology to survey the wreckage. Despite initial concerns, investigators ruled out terrorism, attributing the disaster to a tragic accident.

The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the fragility of infrastructure and the importance of safety measures in maritime operations. As Baltimore grapples with the aftermath, the nation mourns the lives lost in this devastating event.

Timeline of the crash:

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, dramatic footage captured the moment when the container ship Dali collided with the support of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing it to collapse into the water below. A live stream showed vehicles traversing the bridge just moments before the collision. Despite the impact, the Dali remained afloat with its lights still illuminated.

According to investigators, the ship’s lights abruptly went dark four minutes before the collision before resuming, followed by the emergence of dark smoke from its chimney at 1:25 a.m. A minute later, at 1:26 a.m., the ship altered its course, with further flickering of its lights leading up to the crash.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld revealed that workers on the bridge were repairing concrete ducts at the time of the accident. Seven workers, including foreman James Krutzfeldt, were reportedly pouring concrete to address potholes directly above the area where the ship struck.

The Coast Guard confirmed that the vessel involved was the Dali, a containership flying a Singaporean flag en route to Sri Lanka. The impact of the bridge collapse was felt by nearby residents, including Bobby Haines of Dundalk in Baltimore County, who described the sensation akin to an earthquake, expressing profound shock and concern.

The incident underscores the critical nature of maritime safety and infrastructure maintenance. As the investigation continues, communities affected by the tragedy grapple with its aftermath, emphasizing the importance of vigilance and precaution in preventing such disasters in the future.

The ship was involved in another collision:

In the early hours after the big Baltimore bridge fell, Fire Chief James Wallace said they rescued two people from the water. One was okay and didn’t need help, but the other got hurt badly and went to the hospital.

The governor, Wes Moore, praised the people who stopped other cars from going onto the bridge when they heard the ship crash. He called them heroes.

The ship that crashed, called Dali, had a similar accident in 2016 in Belgium. They’re looking into what happened back then. The Dali ship has a company called Synergy Group running it, and everyone on board is safe.

Another big company, Maersk, rented the Dali ship. They’ll have to send their ships to other ports now that Baltimore’s port is closed. But the governor said the bridge was safe before this happened.

A group called the National Transportation Safety Board will find out what happened. They want to make sure everyone involved is okay first.

President Joe Biden promised to help fix the bridge. He said they’ll stand by Baltimore until everything is back to normal.

The Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, also promised to help. He said fixing the bridge will take a long time and money, and it might make it hard to get things from ships for a while.

David Simon, who wrote about Baltimore in a TV show, said he’s worried about people who work at the port. He’s thinking about everyone on the bridge too.

Families of bridge workers wait for updates:

Earlier in the day, family members of the construction workers anxiously waited for any news about their loved ones.

Marian Del Carmen Castellon, whose husband Miguel Luna, 49, was working on the bridge, spoke to Telemundo. She expressed her distress, saying, “They just keep telling us to wait, and they can’t give us any information.” Castellon shared her deep sadness, saying, “We feel devastated, our hearts are broken, not knowing if they have been rescued. We’re just waiting for any updates.”

Jesús Campos, a coworker of Luna, also felt overwhelmed by the situation. He said, “It hurts to see what’s happening. We’re all human beings, and they’re like family to me.” Campos mentioned to The Baltimore Banner that the missing workers come from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Active search and rescue ends:

The Coast Guard announced on Tuesday evening that they were stopping the search for survivors at 7:30 p.m.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon N. Gilreath said they weren’t leaving, but they were changing how they were looking for people. They were moving to a different phase, he said during a news conference.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Roland L. Butler, Jr., said they were starting a recovery operation. He explained that the conditions had become too dangerous for divers to keep searching.

Butler promised they would try their best to find the six missing people, but it was tough. He said it’s already hard to rescue someone in a regular car crash, and it’s even harder when it’s cold, dark, and underwater with low visibility.

He mentioned there was a lot of debris in the water, like sharp metal and other dangerous things. This could slow down the recovery process, Butler said.

A long road in front of us:

Built in 1977: The Key Bridge, also known as the Francis Scott Key Bridge, was constructed over four decades ago.

Impressive Size: Stretching over 8,500 feet, or about 1.6 miles, the bridge boasts a main section spanning 1,200 feet, making it one of the world’s longest continuous truss bridges.

Heavy Traffic: Daily, approximately 31,000 vehicles cross the Key Bridge, amounting to a staggering 11.3 million vehicles annually, as reported by the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Crucial Economic Hub: The bridge connects vital shipping routes, with the river and Port of Baltimore contributing significantly to the East Coast’s shipping industry. Generating over $3.3 billion yearly and employing more than 15,000 individuals, these waterways are essential for regional commerce.

Uncertain Future: Following the tragic collapse, the state’s transportation secretary emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the bridge’s future. While discussions with engineering firms are underway, the road to restoration will undoubtedly be lengthy and complex.

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