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Search to Resume for Six Workers Presumed Dead after Baltimore Bridge Collapse


Aerial view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, March 26, 2024.
Aerial view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, March 26, 2024.

The search for the bodies of six workers presumed killed after the collapse of a major bridge in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore resumes Wednesday.

The workers were part of an eight-person repair crew filling potholes and patching concrete on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when a cargo ship crashed into one of its two main support columns, causing the span to collapse into the Patapsco River before dawn Tuesday.

Two members of the crew were rescued, with one transported to a trauma center in serious condition, while the other was uninjured. Divers spent much of the day searching for the other six workers in bone-chilling water temperatures of about 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) before their efforts were called off before nightfall. Authorities said the river currents and the tangled metal from the wreckage made conditions too dangerous for the divers.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath told reporters late Tuesday evening it was doubtful the six missing workers were still alive due to the length of time since the accident and the river’s cold temperatures.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said ending the rescue effort was “a really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day.” The governor said authorities at the federal, state and local levels will use every resource available to find the missing workers and provide closure for the families.

The Guatemalan foreign affairs ministry issued a statement late Tuesday saying two of the workers were Guatemalan nationals – a 26-year-old from the Petén region and a 35-year-old from the Chiquimula area.

A non-profit organization that provides services to the Baltimore immigrant community says one of the missing workers was from El Salvador, had lived in Maryland for 19 years and was married with three children. News outlets identified the other workers as being from Mexico and Honduras.

Clay Diamond, executive director of the American Pilots Association, the organization which represents workers responsible for steering seagoing vessels, said the Singapore-flagged container ship named Dali had a “total blackout” of engine and electrical power minutes before the collision.

Governor Moore said the crew issued a “mayday” or distress call shortly before the crash, which enabled transportation officials to quickly halt traffic along the interstate highway crossing over the bridge.

"These people are heroes. They saved lives last night," the governor said. The ship’s crew also dropped its anchors in a futile attempt to avert the disaster.

Video showed the bridge quickly collapsing into the river after the Dali collided with the support column. The vessel is 48 meters wide and 300 meters long and was loaded with cargo containers for Sri Lanka.

Synergy Marine Corp, managers of the Dali, issued a statement saying that all 20 crew members, and the two pilots on board, were accounted for and there were no reports of injuries on board the vessel.

News outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post are reporting an inspection of the Dali last year at a port in Chile found that the vessel had a deficiency related to “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.” The inspection, conducted on June 27 at the port of San Antonio, specified that the problem concerned gauges and thermometers. A later inspection, however, found no defects.

CNN is reporting that investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will likely board the Dali for the first time on Wednesday to recover the ship’s data recorders. Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace told the network that local, state and federal dive teams will begin the process of underwater mapping the accident area on Wednesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden said at the White House hours after the accident that he would ask Congress for federal funding to rebuild the bridge and plans to visit the site soon.

“We’re going to rebuild that port,” which he said supports 15,000 jobs. “We’re going to rebuild that bridge as soon as humanly possible.”

The 47-year-old, 2.5-kilometer-long bridge was a major link in the interstate highway that circles the city of Baltimore. Biden said 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge on a typical day.

All shipping in and out of the Port of Baltimore has been suspended.

The bridge was named after Francis Scott Key, the writer of “The Star Spangled Banner,” a poem later set to music to eventually become the U.S. national anthem.

Key was inspired to write the poem after witnessing the British bombardment of a major U.S. military fort in Baltimore in 1814 during the war that began in 1812.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.

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