UNITED STATES NEWS

What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse

Mar 26, 2024, 10:00 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2024, 8:16 am

A cargo ship rammed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Bridge, causing the span to collapse and presumably killing six construction workers. On Wednesday, a day after the early-morning crash, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board boarded the ship and planned to recover information from its electronics and paperwork while divers searched for the bodies of workers who were still missing.

Here’s what we know so far about the collapse:

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?

The operators of the Dali cargo ship issued a mayday call early Tuesday that the vessel had lost power moments before the crash, but the ship still headed toward the span at “a very, very rapid speed,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

The 985-foot-long (300-meter-long) vessel struck one of the 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) bridge’s supports, causing the span to break and fall into the water within seconds. The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that the ship underwent “routine engine maintenance” in the port before it lost power.

Six construction workers were filling potholes on the bridge when the crash happened. Divers recovered the bodies of two and the other four are presumed dead. Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, said they were working in the middle of the span when it came apart.

An inspection of the Dali last June at a port in Chile identified a problem with the ship’s “propulsion and auxiliary machinery,” according to Equasis, a shipping information system. The deficiency involved gauges and thermometers, but the website’s online records didn’t elaborate.

The most recent inspection listed for the Dali was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard in New York in September. The “standard examination” didn’t identify any deficiencies, according to the Equasis data.

The ship was moving at 8 knots, which is roughly 9 mph (15 kph).

Given the vessel’s massive weight, it struck the bridge support with significant force, said Roberto Leon, a Virginia Tech engineering professor.

“The only way the post can resist it is by bending,” Leon said. “But it cannot absorb anywhere near the energy that this humongous ship is bringing. So it’s going to break.”

Last June, federal inspectors rated the 47-year-old bridge in fair condition. But the structure did not appear to have pier protection to withstand the crash, experts said.

“If a bridge pier without adequate protection is hit by a ship of this size, there is very little that the bridge could do,” Leon said.

Federal and state investigators have said the crash appears to have been an accident.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE MISSING?

Two people who were on the bridge were rescued. The bodies of four of the six construction workers were still missing Thursday. Searchers recovered the bodies of 35-year-old Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes and 26-year-old Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera on Wednesday. They were in a red pickup truck submerged in about 25 feet (7.6 meters) of water.

The construction workers came to the Maryland area from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, according to diplomats from those countries.

One worker, 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, came to the U.S. from Honduras nearly two decades ago and was described by his brother as an entrepreneurial and hard-working husband and father of two. And El Salvador’s foreign minister, Alexandra Hill Tinoco, posted Wednesday on X that one Salvadoran citizen, Miguel Luna, was among the missing workers.

Some vehicles that had been on the span seemed to escape with just seconds before it collapsed, and police believe the construction workers and the two people who were rescued were the only people who went into the water.

The ship is owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd., which said all crew members, including the two pilots, were accounted for and there were no reports of injuries.

The ship’s warning enabled authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span. Plus, the accident occurred at 1:30 a.m., long before the busy morning rush. The bridge carried an estimated 30,800 vehicles per day on average in 2019.

WHAT IMPACT COULD THIS HAVE?

The collapse will almost surely create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, in the region, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore, a major shipping hub. The accident will also snarl cargo and commuter traffic.

The port is a major East Coast hub for shipping. The bridge spans the Patapsco River, which massive cargo ships use to reach the Chesapeake Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic.

President Joe Biden said he plans to travel to Baltimore “as quickly as I can” and that he expects the federal government to pick up the entire cost of rebuilding the bridge.

The collapse, however, is not likely to have a big effect on worldwide trade because Baltimore is not a major port for container vessels, but the port’s facilities are more important when it comes to goods such as farm equipment and autos, said Judah Levine, head of research for global freight booking platform Freightos.

Authorities must now handle a sheen in the water after some of the 56 containers onboard were breached. The ship was carrying hazardous materials such as corrosives, flammables and lithium ion batteries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Urgent safety recommendations could be issued over the course of the investigation, which might last from one to two years, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said.

Leon, the Virginia Tech professor, said lessons can be learned and improvements can be made following this disaster. For example, bridge cameras and sensors can be used to track when a cargo ship heads off course and communicate with traffic lights and gates at bridge entrances.

“I think that our mission now is to learn from this failure and learn at all levels,” Leon said.

HOW OFTEN DOES THIS HAPPEN?

From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collisions, with a total of 342 people killed, according to a 2018 report from the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure.

Eighteen of those collapses happened in the United States.

Among them were a 2002 incident in which a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, sending vehicles plunging into the water. Fourteen people died and 11 were injured.

And in 2001, a tugboat and barge struck the Queen Isabella Causeway in Port Isabel, Texas, causing a section of the bridge to tumble 80 feet (24 meters) into the bay below. Eight people were killed.

United States News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts after speaking at a campaign...

Associated Press

Trump expected to turn his full focus on Harris at first rally since Biden’s exit from 2024 race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign rally since President Joe Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major parties had spent months preparing for, leaving the former president to direct his ire toward his likely new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump is expected to turn his […]

2 hours ago

A runner and their pacer run as the sun rises behind them on California Route 190 during the Badwat...

Associated Press

Runners set off on the annual Death Valley ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race

DEATH VALLEY NATOINAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — During a rainstorm that partially obscured the light of a a nearly full moon, 97 runners pushed off in desolate Death Valley with the launch of a 48-hour annual ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race — the Badwater 135. After starting late Monday night, the men […]

2 hours ago

FILE - FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee o...

Associated Press

FBI chief to face questions over Trump assassination attempt as he returns to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify Wednesday about the bureau’s investigation into the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, with lawmakers at a congressional hearing likely to press him for fresh details about the gunman’s motive and background. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will represent Wray’s most […]

2 hours ago

President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One as he arrives Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Ju...

Associated Press

Biden will make a case for his legacy – and for Harris to continue it – in his Oval Office address

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though President Joe Biden won’t be on the ballot this November, voters still will be weighing his legacy. As Vice President Kamala Harris moves to take his place as the Democratic standard-bearer, Biden’s accomplishments remain very much at risk should Republican Donald Trump prevail. How Biden’s single term — and his […]

2 hours ago

Former U.S. Army medical technician Louis M. Gigliotti tours the Alaska Veterans Museum following h...

Associated Press

An Alaska veteran is finally getting his benefits — 78 years after the 103-year-old was discharged

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 103-year-old World War II veteran who’s been paying his medical bills out-of-pocket is finally getting his veterans benefits from the U.S. government after 78 years. Louis Gigliotti’s caretaker says the former U.S. Army medical technician has a card from the Veteran Administration but he never realized he could use his […]

2 hours ago

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns for President as the presumptive Democratic candidate during...

Associated Press

Democrats hope Harris’ bluntness on abortion will translate to 2024 wins in Congress, White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden might not often use the word “abortion” when he talks about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but Vice President Kamala Harris sure does. She’s also toured a Planned Parenthood clinic where the procedure is performed, and routinely links the fall of Roe to the larger issue of rising […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse