Baltimore: At least 6 dead from bridge collapse - Ship suffered total blackout

The Coast Guard suspends searches for the missing persons

Screenshot 12 3 Baltimore, BRIDGE

The Coast Guard ended its search late Tuesday for the six roadway maintenance crew workers on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after it collapsed when rammed by a cargo ship.

"At this point, based on the length of time since the bridge collapse and the water temperatures, we don't believe we're going to find any of these people still alive," Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath told a news conference.

At least six people are presumed dead, The Baltimore Sun reports. Late Tuesday, rescuers located one body in the waters of the Patapsco River, while the other five have not yet been located.

Two other people were pulled out alive. One was briefly hospitalized, although seriously injured, and has now been discharged, and the second had no injuries at all.

The bridge collapsed when a container ship hit the pillar. Active search and rescue efforts were called off after 18 hours, Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said, stressing that the Coast Guard is not leaving the scene, "it's just going into a different phase."

Maryland State Police Colonel Ronald Butler said divers will return to the water at 6 a.m. Wednesday (12 GMT) to try to recover the bodies of the six missing workers.

Authorities were able to find three passenger vehicles, a cement truck and a fifth vehicle submerged in the water using infrared and side-scan sonar technology, Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace said.

The ship suffered a total blackout prior to the collision with the bridge

The captain of the ship that crashed into the Baltimore Bridge on Tuesday did "everything he could do" to slow the ship down and keep it from drifting toward the bridge, said Clay Diamond, executive director and general counsel of the American Shipowners Association.

Clay Diamond is in close contact with the Maryland Ship Masters Association about what unfolded on the freighter Dali in the moments leading up to the crash.

"A few minutes before the bridge, there was a complete blackout on the ship, meaning the ship lost engine power and electrical power, it was a total blackout," Diamond told CNN.

At that point, according to Clay Diamond, the captain did "everything he could" to slow the ship and keep it from drifting to starboard, toward the bridge.

The captain quickly issued a series of orders, asking to turn the helm as far to port as possible and drop anchor, and according to Diamond, it was the master who contacted the dispatch office to cut off traffic to the bridge. .

"These were all appropriate steps, but it happened so quickly and with so little time ... none of these maneuvers were enough," added the executive director and general counsel of the American Shipowners Association. He also pointed out that while the lights on the ship appear to have come back on – likely due to an emergency generator activated after the initial blackout – the ship's engines never restarted.

The distress signal from the ship prevented a greater tragedy

Authorities in Baltimore were able to close the Key Bridge to traffic shortly before the freighter Dali ran into it and caused it to collapse early Tuesday. It was a decision that likely prevented an even greater disaster.

Officers from the Dali ship's bridge alerted local officials of a possible collision, according to ABC News, which cited a US intelligence report.

CNN reported that officials were told "the ship has lost its rudder" and is speeding toward the bridge. They immediately moved to close the traffic.

In the audio, a person can be heard saying: “I need one of you on the south side, one on the north side, to hold all the traffic on the bridge. There's a ship approaching that just lost its rudder, so until we get it under control, we have to stop all traffic."

After the collapse, which happened just 90 seconds later, another person is heard saying: “The whole bridge just fell. Start, start who can…everyone. The whole bridge just collapsed…”.

“Do we know what traffic was cut off?” another person later said.

“I can't go to the other side, sir. The bridge has collapsed,” another person replied.

US President Joe Biden said the incident was a "terrible accident" and ruled out deliberate action. The bridge will be rebuilt as soon as possible with federal funds, the country's president said.

At the same time, investigations continue into the causes of the tragedy and to provide an explanation for how the merchant ship came to collide with one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

At the time of the tragedy, there were eight maintenance workers on the bridge.

What do we know about the tragedy?

Videos of the incident show that around 01:30 on Tuesday (07:30 local time in Greece) the Dali ship collided with one of the pylons causing the entire central section to collapse at once.

The Dali had departed just an hour earlier from Baltimore for Sri Lanka. It had picked up speed on course to exit the ocean, but at 01:25, shortly before impact, it appeared to slow and drift off course.

Suddenly all of its lights went out and smoke started pouring out of the chimney, as seen on video. Immediately after, he hit the bridge at 15 kilometers per hour, which is considered quite fast for the spot.

None of the crew, who are all Indians, and the two pilots (who were to take the ship out of the harbor) were injured. The ship will need repairs before sailing.

The owning company says there are several possible explanations for the crash, but with two pilots on board it seems an unusual occurrence. Experts told the BBC that the crash may have been due to an engine or steering problem, or even a generator blackout.

The FBI assures that there is no link between the accident and terrorism.

The bridge, named after poet Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics to the US national anthem, was one of the longest in the country. It was 2.632 meters long, i.e. approximately the same as that of the Rio bridge (2.880 meters). Opened to traffic in 1977,

Authorities stress that the bridge was safe, with no structural problems, and that it had passed all inspections.

What will happen from now on

What we initially have to expect from the collapse is a series of problems in the port and its operation that will persist for months.

11,5 million vehicles passed through the bridge every year. Part of it could be tunneled under the harbor, although it can't handle that much traffic. Dangerous goods are prohibited from passing through the tunnel.

The Port of Baltimore is the largest port in the US in terms of car cargo. More than 2022 vehicles passed through there in 750.000 alone, according to data from the port authority. It is also one of the largest exporters of coal.

The closure of the port could disrupt the supply chain for products – from cars to coal to even sugar, meaning delays and costs will increase.