UPDATE: Six Presumed Dead in Baltimore Bridge Collapse, Search and Rescue Efforts Suspended


UPDATE, 7:45 PM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

During a press conference held by US Coast Guard officials it was announced that search and rescue operations have been suspended as of 7:30 PM and that the six construction workers who were on the bridge when it collapsed are presumed dead.

Because of the water temperature, the changing currents, and the amount of debris in the water – including structures from the bridge that move with the tides and currents – officials deemed the conditions too hazardous for dive teams to continue to operate, especially considering the length of time the victims have been in the water. Recovery operations will resume at 6:00 AM Wednesday.

Safety and mechanical issues cited previously

According to records found in Equasis, a public ship safety database, the MV Dali was cited on June 27, 2023 in San Antonio, Chile for a deficiency related to “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.” 

According to the report, the deficiency was described in detail as issues with “gauges, thermometers, etc.” but there was no detention resulting from this single detected deficiency. Three months later the ship was subject to a follow-up inspection by the United States Coast Guard in New York but no deficiencies were recorded.

A few minor deficiencies is not uncommon for a ship like the Dali however, the recent incident in Baltimore has brought this previous citation back into focus, suggesting the possibility of a recurring issue with the vessel’s propulsion system.

Records also show that the ship, which launched in 2015, is operated by Synergy Marine on behalf of Maersk. 

The New York Times reports that other ships belonging to Grace Ocean Private Ltd, the parent company of Synergy Marine, have been cited for labor violations:

Ships belonging to the same company whose container vessel crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday have been cited in recent years for labor violations, which include underpaying ship crews and holding crew members on board for months past their contracts, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The Port of Baltimore is closed indefinitely. For an in-depth report of how this could affect Baltimore, read Streiff’s excellent report (exclusively for our VIP subscribers): Will Baltimore Survive the Closing of Its Port?

UPDATE, 3:00 PM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

Jennifer Homendy, NTSB Chair, held a briefing at the site of the Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore. She announced that she would not be sharing information related to fatalities and injuries or taking questions on that matter since that is not NTSB’s area of responsibility and referred journalists to local authorities for that information. She did say, however, that “search and rescue is still underway, so we are very hopeful.”

The NTSB’s 24-person team arrived on the scene at 6 AM Eastern but are “standing back” to allow search and rescue operations to continue. “We chose not to board the vessel today to allow time for search and rescue, which we did not want to interfere with,” Homendy said, adding that at this time the NTSB is gathering information for their investigation from the command post.

The NTSB’s team includes experts in nautical operations, human performance, survival factors, and structural engineering. The NTSB team is working on obtaining recorders, including a voyage data recorder from the ship. When asked about when and if the ship dropped anchor prior to the collision, Homendy said that they don’t yet have enough information to comment on that. As reported in the prior press briefing, the ship issued a Mayday call in the minutes before the collision.

Homendy reported that she’s been in contact with her counterpart in Singapore and said that a team from Singapore will be coming to Baltimore to assist in the investigation.

Immediately after the NTSB briefing, Fox News reported that the individual who’d been rescued and hospitalized has now been released from the hospital.

UPDATE, 10:10 AM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

Baltimore and Maryland officials hosted another press conference shortly before 10:00 am Eastern Tuesday morning, with a couple of key points: 

  • The construction crew was on the bridge repairing potholes, not performing structural work. 
  • Per Maryland Governor Wes Moore, the bridge was fully up to code. 
  • Per the FBI Special Agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office, Bill DelBagno, there is no specific or credible information regarding ties to terrorism. 
  • Maryland Secretary of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld stated that six individuals involved in the construction work are unaccounted for. As noted earlier, two were rescued, with one refusing treatment and the other taken to the hospital. 
  • According to Gov. Moore, the ship placed a Mayday call in time to prevent some traffic from entering the bridge. 
  • Whether there were any additional vehicles/people on the bridge at the time of the collapse remains unclear. 

UPDATE, 6:45 AM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

Baltimore officials held a press conference to give updates on search and rescue efforts after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The first rescue units arrived on the scene 20 minutes after the collapse and were able to rescue two people immediately. One of the survivors was unharmed and refused transport to the hospital, while the other was taken to a trauma center and is in critical condition. 

Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace said that the operation is still very much an active search-and-rescue effort and those efforts have not shifted to recovery. At the time of the briefing, Wallace said they are looking for “upwards of seven” people in the water, but stressed that the number is based on current information and that number is fluid.

Wallace said that multiple air assets from the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department were among those searching, and multiple marine assets from agencies in the region are involved. SONAR, underwater UAVs, and infrared technology are being utilized both from the air and from the water surface to attempt to locate people in the water.

Chief Wallace said that sonar has detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water, but he does not have a definite number of vehicles in the water. He has heard reports that there was construction work occurring on the bridge at the time of the collapse but they have not confirmed that.

Over the next 8 to 12 hours, Wallace said, officials will be able to board the ship and assess the damage to the ship and the ability to move it, and speak to the crew members about what happened in the moments before the crash. The ship’s crew members are still on the ship. Officials say there is no evidence of fuel leaking from the ship at this time.

UPDATE, 6:00 AM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

A State of Emergency has been declared in Maryland as the state “attempts to assess and respond to the tragedy,” and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tweeted that he had already spoken to Gov. Wes Moore and Mayor Brandon Scott and offered federal support.

The New York Times is reporting that the owners of the ship that hit the bridge, the Singapore-flagged Dali, “confirmed in an emailed statement that the vessel had hit one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge around 1:30 a.m. Eastern. All crew members, including two pilots onboard, were accounted for and there were no injuries on the ship,” and that the owners say they and the vessel’s managers are cooperating with authorities.

Baltimore Fire Department authorities told CNN that it appeared that construction workers were on the bridge at the time it collapsed; that could be what the number of individuals potentially in the water is based on.

Fox News is reporting that local officials are saying that the accident scene isn’t safe for rescue workers due to cargo hanging from the bridge.

A news conference was originally set for 5:45 AM, but has been moved to 6:15 AM Eastern.

Baltimore news station WBAL’s livestream can be found here: https://www.wbaltv.com/nowcast

UPDATE, 4:45 AM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

Kevin Cartwright with the Baltimore Fire Department provided an update to CNN, saying, “We understand that there was up to 20 individuals who may be in the Patapsco River right now, as well as multiple vehicles. We have a mass casualty, multi-agency incident underway.” Dive teams from the BFD and other agencies are in the water searching for those people.

The bridge collapsed on top of the ship. Cartrwright said that the US Coast Guard is “in the process of establishing contact with the vessel” to determine how many injured people are on that ship and more about what type of cargo was on the ship and any mechanical issues that might have occurred before the collision. 

Cartwright said that the air temperature at the time of his update was around 30 degrees.

f1657a4d ef79 4d78 902b d9c56167e007CREDIT: Andrew Doyle

ORIGINAL STORY

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland collapsed after a large container ship crashed into one of its supports just before 1:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time. An unknown number of vehicles and possibly a tractor-trailer went into the Patapsco River as a result of the collapse. As of 3 AM Baltimore time, officials were searching for seven people in the water.

The collapse, which happened almost immediately after the collision, was captured by the bridge’s live cam.

The live cam footage isn’t extremely clear, but it looks like there could have been an explosion when the ship struck the bridge support.

From the Baltimore Sun:

A spokesperson for the Baltimore City Fire Department said a major rescue operation was underway with all lanes closed and with all traffic being rerouted from the steel bridge that is part of Interstate 695.

“The entire bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River,” said Kevin Cartwright, the director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department.

“We have reason to believe that there were vehicles and possibly a tractor-trailer” that went into the water, Cartwright said.

People living near the bridge also caught the tragedy on video.

According to Rawsalerts, the ship is the Singapore-flagged Dali. 

Baltimore Fire Department’s Cartwright told Fox News, “This is a dire emergency….Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people,” Cartwright said, calling the collapse a “developing mass casualty event.”

This is a developing story; we will provide more updates as they become available.





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