‘Heroes’ scrambled to stop traffic before Baltimore bridge collapsed


AP :
It was the middle of the night when a dispatcher’s 12-second warning crackled over the radio: A massive cargo ship had lost its steering capabilities and was heading toward the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Within about 90 seconds, police officers responded that they had managed to stop vehicle traffic over the bridge in both directions. One said he was about to drive onto the bridge to alert a construction crew.

But it was too late. Lifeless and laden with huge containers, the vessel smashed into a support pillar.

“The whole bridge just fell down,” a frantic officer said. “Start, start whoever, everybody … the whole bridge just collapsed.”

When the shipping vessel Dali slammed into the pillar around 1:30 a.m.

Tuesday, it caused a long span of the bridge, a key cog in the region’s transportation infrastructure, to crumple into the Patapsco River. Six people are presumed dead, and the loss of the bridge is expected to snarl commuter traffic and disrupt a vital shipping port.

At least eight people went into the water. Two survived but the other six, all identified as part of a construction crew that had been filling potholes on the bridge, were missing. A search for their bodies was to resume Wednesday morning.


Among the missing were people from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, according to diplomats from those countries. The Honduran man was identified as Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandova.

Federal and state officials said the incident appeared to be an accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, and ship traffic entering and leaving the Port of Baltimore was suspended indefinitely.

Capt. Michael Burns Jr. of the Maritime Center for Responsible Energy said bringing a ship into or out of ports in restricted waters with limited room to maneuver is “one of the most technically challenging and demanding things that we do.”

“So there really is few things that are scarier than a loss of power in restricted waters,” he said. And when a ship loses propulsion and steering, “then it’s really at the mercy of the wind and the current.”

Video showed the ship moving at what Gov. Wes Moore said was about 9 mph (15 kph) toward the 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) bridge.

There still was traffic moving across the span, and some vehicles appeared to escape with only seconds to spare.

The collision caused the span to break and fall into the water within seconds, and jagged remnants could be seen jutting up from the water later in the day.