BALTIMORE (March 26, 2024) — A cargo ship lost power and rammed into a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, destroying the span in a matter of seconds and plunging it into the river in a terrifying collapse that could disrupt a vital shipping port for months. Six people were missing and presumed dead, and the search for them was suspended until Wednesday morning.

The ship’s crew issued a mayday call moments before the crash took down the Francis Scott Key Bridge, enabling authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span, Maryland’s governor said.

As the vessel neared the bridge, puffs of black smoke could be seen as the lights flickered on and off. It struck one of the bridge’s supports, causing the structure to collapse like a toy, and a section of the span came to rest on the bow.

With the ship barreling toward the bridge at “a very, very rapid speed,” authorities had just enough time to stop cars from coming over the bridge, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.


Cargo Ship Hits Baltimore’s Key Bridge, Collapsing It

In the evening, Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent for Maryland State Police, announced that the search and rescue mission was transitioning to one of search and recovery. He also said the search was being put on pause and divers would return to the site at 6 a.m. Wednesday, when challenging overnight conditions were expected to improve. No bodies have been recovered, Butler said.

The crash happened in the middle of the night, long before the busy morning commute on the bridge that stretches 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) and was used by 12 million vehicles last year.

The six missing people were part of a construction crew filling potholes on the bridge, said Paul Wiedefeld, the state’s transportation secretary.

Guatemala’s consulate in Maryland said in a statement that two of the missing were citizens of the Central American nation. It did not provide their names but said consular officials were in contact with authorities and assisting the families.

Honduras’ Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio García told The Associated Press that a Honduran citizen, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, was missing. He said he had been in contact with Suazo’s family.

And the Washington Consulate of Mexico said via the social media platform X that citizens of that nation were also among the missing. It did not say how many.

A senior executive at the company that employed the workers also said, in the afternoon, that the workers were presumed dead given the water’s depth and how much time had passed.


Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, said the crew was working in the middle of the bridge when it came down.

“This was so completely unforeseen,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers.”

Jesus Campos, who has worked on the bridge for Brawner Builders and knows members of the crew, said he was told they were on a break and some were sitting in their trucks.

“I know that a month ago, I was there, and I know what it feels like when the trailers pass,” Campos said. “Imagine knowing that is falling. It is so hard. One would not know what to do.”

Father Ako Walker, a Roman Catholic priest at Sacred Heart of Jesus, said he spent time with the families of the missing workers as they waited for news of their loved ones.


“You can see the pain etched on their faces,” Walker said.

A police dispatcher put out a call just before the collapse saying a ship had lost its steering and asked officers to stop all traffic on the bridge, according to Maryland Transportation Authority first responder radio traffic obtained from the archive.

One officer who stopped traffic radioed that he was going to drive onto the bridge to alert the construction crew. But seconds later, a frantic officer said: “The whole bridge just fell down. Start, start whoever, everybody ... the whole bridge just collapsed.”

On a separate radio channel for maintenance and construction workers, someone said officers were stopping traffic because a ship had lost steering. There was no follow-up order to evacuate, and 30 seconds later the bridge fell and the channel went silent.

Tuesday’s collapse is sure to create a logistical nightmare along the East Coast for months, if not years, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore, a major hub. The loss of the bridge will also snarl cargo and commuter traffic.

“Losing this bridge will devastate the entire area, as well as the entire East Coast,” state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a news conference that it was too soon to estimate how long it will take to clear the channel, which is about 50 feet (15 meters) deep.

“I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size,” he said.

Last year the Port of Baltimore handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo worth $80 billion, according to the state.

The head of a supply chain management company said Americans should expect shortages of goods from the collapse’s effect on ocean container shipping and East Coast trucking.


SOURCE: The Associated Press. Read more here.