NATIONAL 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.

National News

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, July 13, 202...

Associated Press

Biden tries to balance his condemnation of the attack on Trump with the ongoing 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security and law enforcement officials were briefing President Joe Biden on Sunday about the apparent assassination attempt on his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the White House continued to call for national unity and condemn the stunning act of violence. Vice President Kamala Harris was joining Biden for an update from top […]

2 hours ago

FILE - President Ronald Reagan waves and then looks up before being shoved into the President's lim...

Associated Press

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and his response changed the trajectory of his presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The would-be assassin got off six shots in 1.7 seconds, nearly taking the life of a president and changing the trajectory of a presidency. It happened on a dreary March afternoon in 1981. President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel after giving a speech to a union group when John […]

3 hours ago

A 150 million year old dinosaur skeleton is displayed at the Natural History Museum's new welcome c...

Associated Press

Gnatalie is the only green-boned dinosaur found on the planet. She will be on display in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest dinosaur being mounted at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles is not only a member of a new species — it’s also the only one found on the planet whose bones are green, according to museum officials. Named “Gnatalie” (pronounced Natalie) for the gnats that swarmed during the […]

4 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Sec...

Associated Press

What we know about the 20-year-old suspect in the apparent assassination attempt of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man identified as the shooter in the apparent assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was a 20-year-old from a Pittsburg suburb not far from the campaign rally where one attendee was killed. Authorities say Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, opened fire at the rally before being killed by […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump is injured but ‘fine’ after apparent assassination attempt leaves rally-goer and gunman dead

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an apparent attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him injured but “fine” and the gunman and a rally-goer dead. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said the […]

5 hours ago

FILE - An Amazon worker delivers packages in Los Angeles on Oct. 1, 2020. July sales events have be...

Associated Press

Amazon Prime Day deals are almost here. Should you take advantage of them?

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s summertime, and the bargains seem easy at a time when many consumer prices are high. July sales events have become a seasonal revenue driver for the retail industry since Amazon launched its first Prime Day back in 2015. While consumers may be enticed by the advertised can’t-miss savings on some […]

9 hours ago

What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse