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The Baltimore Key Bridge Collapse: Here’s the Latest on the Investigation into This Tragic Incident

The Baltimore Key Bridge Collapse: Here's the Latest on the Investigation into This Tragic Incident

This post was updated on March 29, 2024 to reflect the most recent information on the Key Bridge Collapse.

Many Baltimore residents woke up early Tuesday morning, March 26, 2024, shocked to learn of the collapse of a large segment of the 1.6-mile-long Francis Scott Key Bridge. The incident occurred just after 1:30 a.m. as a cargo ship nicknamed Dali, en route from the port of Baltimore to Sri Lanka, collided with one of the bridge’s pylons, causing it to crash into the extremely cold waters of the Patapsco River below within a matter of seconds.

Why the Bridge Crash Occurred

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other government agencies continue to investigate what caused the crash that led to the bridge’s collapse. However, interviews with eyewitnesses who survived the incident (including those who were on the boat) and a cursory review of evidence such as the ship’s voyage data recorder, have led to investigators making the following determinations:

  • The boat lost power and thus propulsion minutes before it crashed into the bridge: The ship’s pilot immediately made a Mayday call to the effect. Electric outages like these cause a complete loss of navigation.
  • That boat pilot’s Mayday call likely saved lives: Reportedly, less than five minutes elapsed between the Mayday call and the water vessel striking the bridge. That gave police enough time to block off the bridge to vehicles they encountered looking to cross it, but news reports suggest that officers en route to notify anyone on the bridge to get off, like the construction workers that were fixing potholes, wasn’t possible. The bridge collapsed as the officers tried to make their way to them.
  • There wasn’t enough time to avoid the crash: Maritime analysts suggest that stopping a vessel of an estimated 91,000 tons (each ton weighs 2,000 pounds, meaning the ship weighed hundreds of millions of pounds) and the length of three football fields that was traveling quickly at seven to eight knots and being carried being propelled forward by the current, even by dropping both of its anchors, would likely not have prevented the collision into the Key Bridge. Apparently, even the most experienced pilots would have needed more time and distance to bring the vessel to a complete stop.
  • The boat crash likely didn’t cause any fire: Accounts where media outlets initially reported that a fire erupted when the boat collided with one of the bridge’s pylon supports have been discounted by maritime analysts. Instead, they suggest that what gave the appearance of smoke at the point of impact between the ship and the I-695 bridge were the concrete pillars being destroyed and the ship’s fuselage becoming penetrated.

How Many Victims Did the Baltimore Bridge Collapse Leave Behind?

Multiple local city and county fire rescue crews, including ones from Baltimore and Anne Arundel County, reported to the scene of the boat crash soon after it occurred. So, too, did the U.S. Coast Guard.

The ambient temperature at the time of the incident was around 35 degrees. In the water, it was about 45. Within hours of the incident, investigators announced that they believed that they were searching for six people. After nearly 24 hours of searching for them, they not only announced that they’d found two survivors but that they were transitioning their mission from a search and rescue to a rescue and recovery one, as the conditions wouldn’t be conducive to sustaining life.

Within hours, they changed their mission once again, saying that the instability of the containers on the ship, large, heavy bridge components, dark, murky water, and a significant amount of diesel fuel spilled into the Patapsco River made it way too unsafe for divers to be in. They then announced the mission would be a salvage mission moving forward.

Two survivors, both male road construction workers, were pulled out of the water soon after the incident. One rejected medical attention. The other was taken to an area hospital with a chest injury in serious condition; however, he was released to go home later that same day.

By Wednesday, 3/27, two construction workers had been found trapped in a pickup truck an estimated 25 feet underwater. As of press time, four additional construction workers are believed to still be missing.

Witnesses believe that the workers had recently gotten inside their work trucks for a break right before the bridge collapsed. The latest news Thursday, 3/28, is that investigators using SONAR and other technology had identified a large vehicle buried under the water.

Many of the men, who hailed from Central America, reportedly did not know how to swim. They’d come here nearly twenty years ago, seeking better lives for themselves and their families. Many were related to one another and had wives and young kids at home.

Where the Investigation Into the Deadly Maritime Accident Goes From Here

As of last night, Thursday, March 28, 2024, all the ship’s (unharmed) crew was still onboard the Singapore-owned but Danish-chartered ship. They’re all apparently cooperating with the investigation into what happened, including the local pilot they hired, as per statute, to help navigate the water vessel out of the Port of Baltimore.

Investigators continue to interview eyewitnesses, including the two survivors from the construction crew and others.

In addition, they’re combing through the wreckage left behind from the boat and bridge for physical clues as to causation. Additionally, they’re looking at electronic data from both the water vessel’s bridge and its black box recorder, which they’ve recovered.

NTSB investigations can take months, if not years, to complete. The federal agency’s findings will provide significant insight into whether a failure to maintain the water vessel’s electrical systems caused the crash and whether human error could have played a role in causing it. This insight and any other insight gleaned will prove invaluable in helping victims move forward in filing a liability case to recover maximum compensation for their losses.

Getting Help If You Were Impacted by the Bridge Collapse Near the Port of Baltimore

While we’d like to be able to report that there was simply structural damage to the bridge that resulted from the boat crashing into it and that no one got hurt or lost their life, that isn’t the case. If your life was unexpectedly impacted by the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse in Baltimore early Tuesday morning, March 26, 2024, our local legal team at GDH Law is here to advise you of your rights.

There’s no cost to speak with an attorney experienced in handling catastrophic injury or wrongful death cases like these. All we want is to help you hold those accountable for upending your life. Contact us so we can get started preserving evidence if you indeed have a valid claim.

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