United States

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse: Heroes Emerge Amidst Lost Power, Mayday Call And The Ship Collision In Baltimore

In a tragic incident that rocked Baltimore, the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed following a collision with a massive container ship, prompting commendation for the heroes who emerged amidst the chaos and a plea for federal support in rebuilding efforts.

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Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Photo: Getty Images
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In the early hours of Tuesday, a massive container ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing significant portions of the bridge to collapse into the Patapsco River.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore promptly declared a state of emergency following the bridge's impact. The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a vital segment of Interstate 695 and a crucial link in the Eastern Seaboard's transportation network to one of the nation's largest ports, was severely affected. As a result, vessel traffic was halted.

Efforts to locate and rescue individuals impacted by the incident were suspended on Tuesday night and the six construction workers who remain missing are presumed dead.

Governor Moore emphasized that there is no substantial evidence suggesting a terrorist attack. The primary focus remains on conducting a thorough search operation, spearheaded by the Coast Guard, to locate any individuals who may have been on the bridge at the time of the collision.

Here's everything you need to know about the collision:

How and why did the ship hit the bridge?

The reason behind the ship colliding with the bridge remains unknown, with the National Transportation Safety Board initiating an investigation into the incident.

The cargo vessel, named The Dali and measuring 985 feet in length, was departing from the Port of Baltimore when it experienced a power loss. Shortly before striking a crucial part of the bridge, referred to as a pylon or pier, the vessel issued a mayday distress call. Radio communications from emergency responders indicated that the ship's crew was encountering difficulties in navigating, as per audio recordings made available by Broadcastify. Approximately two minutes prior to the collision, most of the ship's lights suddenly went dark.

At the time of the accident, Baltimore harbor pilots were providing guidance to the vessel, a customary practice during port entries or canal maneuvers, as stated in a joint statement released by the ship's owner and manager.

Governor Moore confirmed that the bridge met all relevant safety standards and regulations, and initial assessments suggest that the collapse was not caused by any structural deficiencies.

Baltimore Bridge Death Toll

The death toll includes the tragic loss of the construction workers, who, according to Coast Guard and state police officials, had been missing for too long to hold out hope for rescue, particularly due to the cold water temperatures. Colonel Roland L. Butler of the Maryland State Police mentioned that divers would make further attempts to recover the bodies from the water.

Among those missing, at least one worker was identified as an immigrant from El Salvador, as reported by We are Casa, a nonprofit organization offering support to the immigrant community in Baltimore.

One of the rescued workers was hospitalized and later discharged.

The Dali ship, its all-Indian crew and why they are being called 'Heroes'

US President Joe Biden commended the crew of the ship, all of whom were Indian nationals, for alerting authorities about the situation. Prompt action by the crew and authorities, including a mayday distress call from the ship and the subsequent closing of the bridge to divert traffic played a major role in preventing further casualties.

The governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, stated "we're thankful that between the Mayday and the collapse that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic."

"These people are heroes. They saved lives last night," he added.

Despite the mayday call, the road repair crew and their vehicles reportedly remained on the bridge, as stated by authorities. The reason for their decision to stay is unclear.

All 22 crew members of the ship were unharmed, but six construction workers on the bridge are presumed dead.

The Dali is registered in Singapore and was en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka, as reported by MarineTraffic, a maritime data platform. According to Synergy Marine, the ship's manager and operator, it was carrying 4,700 shipping containers, although the vessel's capacity was roughly twice that amount.

A previous inspection of the ship, conducted last year at a port in Chile, noted a deficiency related to gauges and thermometers.

Since 2015, The Dali has undergone 27 inspections, as documented in a database maintained by Equasis, a public site advocating for maritime safety. The only other recorded deficiency, involving a damaged hull that impaired seaworthiness, was detected in 2016 at the port of Antwerp. That incident occurred when the vessel collided with a stone wall at the port. A spokesperson for the Dali's owner, Grace Ocean Investment, declined to comment on the deficiency uncovered last year, as reported by the New York Times.

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About the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Construction on the bridge commenced in 1972 and concluded in March 1977. Stretching over 1.6 miles across the Patapsco River, the bridge's entire structure, including its connecting approaches, spans nearly 11 miles.

According to a report from the Maryland state government, over 12.4 million passenger and commercial vehicles traversed the bridge in 2023.

Some engineers suggested that the collapse might have been preventable if the pylons supporting the bridge had been better protected with fenders. These protective measures could range from simple arrangements like rock pyramids surrounding the pylons to more substantial concrete rings cushioned with wooden slats. However, any protection would have needed to withstand the impact from a vessel as massive as the container ship involved in the collision.

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President Biden expressed his expectation that the federal government would cover the "entire cost" of rebuilding the bridge and urged Congress to support funding efforts for the repairs.

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