Recovery work will resume Wednesday for six Key Bridge construction workers believed to have been killed

By | March 27, 2024

BALTIMORE – Authorities on Wednesday resumed the search for six missing construction workers who fell into the Patapsco River early Tuesday morning after a cargo ship struck Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Dump trucks and firefighters headed toward the Patapsco as officials from several state and federal agencies gathered Wednesday morning at the Maryland Transportation Authority headquarters, located next to what was once the northern landing of the 1.6-mile bridge.

At the same location, Gov. Wes Moore and representatives of the Coast Guard and Maryland State Police said at a news conference the night before that they would switch to a recovery operation instead of search and rescue to find the six suspected men. to be dead, and not yet officially identified, after they fell into the river following the bridge collapse at 1.27am on Tuesday.

Two others were rescued from the water that morning, one of whom was treated and released from the hospital, according to officials.

The six missing victims are construction workers who were patching potholes in the bridge when the Singapore-flagged ship Dali hit one of the support columns, causing the expanse to collapse.

In addition to those searching for the workers, crews from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI were also in the water collecting evidence. Board President Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday morning that investigators planned to board the Dali later in the day to obtain electronic logs and components — “perishable evidence” that will disappear once the collapse is cleared.

“The focus is on what we need for our investigation – whether it’s from the ship or from the highway, from the bridge structure – to identify and secure those before we do any kind of analysis,” she said.

According to a spokesperson for Synergy Marine Group, Dali’s management company, the cargo ship’s 22 crew members are still on board.

“I don’t know what the long-term plan is for the crew,” spokesman Darrell Wilson said.

In addition to the crew members, a local pilot and a student were also on board, according to Clay Diamond, executive director of the American Pilots Association. Local pilots, sailors well trained in navigating local waters, help ship crews get through tricky ports. The job, which Diamond described as the “pinnacle of a sailor’s career,” requires extensive, arduous training.

A pilot was at the helm of the Dali when it appeared to lose power early Tuesday morning, causing the ship’s steering and propulsion system to fail, Diamond said. The pilot did “everything he could” by contacting authorities and steering the ship’s rudder to the left as backup generators kicked in, although the ship’s engines were still not working, he said. The ship also anchored. These maneuvers gave authorities additional time to close bridge traffic, he said.

Transportation board investigators had not yet interviewed the people aboard the ship as of Wednesday, Homendy said.

“We have begun drawing up a list of those we want to interview, both on the ship and in the immediate area,” she said, noting that they also wanted to speak to first responders and anyone who may have witnessed the collapse.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Moore said he “cannot overemphasize the heroism” of the rescue and recovery teams who have braved Patapsco’s icy waters since Tuesday. He said the divers find themselves in dark waters where they can see only “one foot in front of them,” navigating “mangled metal” at a site where people are believed to have been killed.

Moore said Tuesday he had met with the families of the missing workers and vowed to “use every resource at our disposal to ensure they find a sense of closure.”

Maryland State Police Superintendent Lt. Col. Roland Butler said Tuesday evening that “changing conditions” had made it “dangerous for first responders and divers in the water,” but that surface ships would be on the river overnight and divers would searches in the river would resume. Wednesday morning.

A highway construction company employee who was not involved in the incident, Jesus Campos, said his missing colleagues were of Spanish descent and were replacing concrete on the bridge at the time of the collision. The workers are all employees of the Hunt Valley firm Brawner Builders, said Jeffrey Pritzker, the executive vice president.

Guatemala’s consulate general in Maryland said in a Facebook post Tuesday that two of the missing employees were from that country.

One of the workers was identified by family members as Miguel Luna, a Salvadoran father of three who has lived in Maryland for 19 years. He and his five missing colleagues were the subject of masses and vigils across the city on Tuesday.

During a vigil at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Baltimore City and County officials appeared alongside faith leaders, thanked first responders for their efforts and pledged to support affected families.

“We can only imagine what is happening [the families’] minds and through their hearts and through their bodies,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. “We need to give them a boost, not just today, not just tomorrow, but for the foreseeable future.”

Catholic Archbishop William Lori joined other bishops in holding a Mass in honor of the men on Tuesday. Father Ako Walker, a priest at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Highlandtown, offered prayers in Spanish for the families during a vigil in Dundalk.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Cassidy Jensen contributed to this article.

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