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

Associated Press

Takeaways from this week’s reports on the deadly 2023 Maui fire that destroyed Lahaina

HONOLULU (AP) — More than half a year after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century burned through a historic Maui town, officials are still trying to determine exactly what went wrong and how to prevent similar catastrophes in the future. But two reports released this week are filling in some of the […]

2 hours ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Oklahoma man arrested after authorities say he threw a pipe bomb at Satanic Temple in Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP) — An Oklahoma man was arrested Wednesday after authorities accused him of throwing a pipe bomb at the Massachusetts headquarters of a group called The Satanic Temple. The Salem-based group says on its website that it campaigns for secularism and individual liberties, and that its members don’t actually worship Satan. Sean Patrick Palmer, […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Ellen Ash Peters, first female chief justice of Connecticut Supreme Court, dies at 94

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Ellen Ash Peters, who was the first woman to serve as Connecticut’s chief justice and wrote the majority opinion in the state Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation ruling in 1996, has died. She was 94. Peters, who also was the first female faculty member at Yale Law School, passed away Tuesday, […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Vermont farms are still recovering from flooding as they enter the growing season

BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — Hundreds of Vermont farms are still recovering from last July’s catastrophic flooding and other extreme weather as they head into this year’s growing season. Dog River Farm, in Berlin, Vermont, lost nearly all its produce crops in the July flooding. The farm removed truckloads of river silt and sand from the […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Appeals court leaves temporary hold on New Jersey’s county line primary ballot design in place

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court’s decision to order New Jersey Democrats scrap a ballot design widely viewed as helping candidates with establishment backing. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals considered a slimmed-down appeal brought by the Camden County Democrats after the county clerks — the officials charged […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse