Bodies Recovered as Probes Seek Cause of Bridge Collision

A loaded container ship collides into the Francis Scott Key Bridge
A loaded container ship collides into the Francis Scott Key Bridge | Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Investigators are examining whether contaminated fuel could have caused the Dali, a loaded container ship, to lose power moments before colliding with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, leading to its collapse early Tuesday morning.

No cause has yet been identified to explain why the ship lost power, but contaminated fuel could have caused the engines to fail, leading to a loss of control. The pilots, which are specifically trained to navigate ships in and out of ports, did not have time to start backup generators or drop anchor before the ship drifted into a support structure of the bridge. Seconds after impact, the 1.5-mile bridge crashed into the river below.

At least six people who were part of an eight-man work crew on the bridge at the time are presumed dead.

Cars were on the bridge at the time and have been found underwater, but have not all been recovered to determine the number of additional people who were killed. The identities of the workers have not been officially released, but at least one was from Honduras, one was from El Salvador, two were from Guatemala, and three others were from Mexico, including one of the two survivors, according to reporting from CNN and Fox News.

One of the missing builders has been identified by Telemundo Washington D.C. as Miguel Luna, 49, of El Salvador. According to the Associated Press, the six may have been sitting in their trucks while taking a break at the time of the disaster.

On Wednesday, divers did find a red pickup truck submerged under approximately 25 feet of water near the middle of the bridge with two bodies inside identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk, Maryland, per Fox. As Guatemala’s foreign ministry said its missing nationals were 26 and 35, it’s likely Fuentes and Cabrera are the two Guatemalans.

No one aboard the ship was injured in the accident, but sections of the bridge fell on the ship, crushing containers and knocking several of the containers overboard. Investigators said they believe some containers may hold hazardous materials, but there is no threat to the public.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were able to board the ship late on Tuesday and recover the data recorder, which will likely lead to some answers as to what happened on board the Dali in the moments before the accident.

Fotis Pagoulatos, a naval architect, suggested that contaminated fuel could have caused the power outage on the ship, based on the description of the outage contained in the Coast Guard report, as Fox News reported.

“The vessel went dead, no steering power and no electronics,” an officer aboard the ship said Tuesday, per the report. “One of the engines coughed and then stopped. The smell of burned fuel was everywhere in the engine room and it was pitch black.”

As Dali was traveling under a Singaporean flag, Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority has also stated it intends to conduct its own investigation in addition to cooperating with the U.S.’s investigation by working with the ship’s management company to get information to the U.S. Coast Guard, per Fox.

The Maritime and Port Authority also said the country’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau would carry out an additional investigation to identify areas for improvement.

Officials in the U.S. have no timeline as to when the port will reopen. Sections of the bridge remain in the water, and the ship is still stuck on the bridge support it hit. The port is one of the busiest in the nation and is a key port for vehicle shipping as well as grain and other trade exports.

“The Port of Baltimore has such a significant economic impact not just on, on my state, not just on the state of Maryland, but we’re talking about 51 million tons of foreign cargo. That’s the largest, we’re the largest port in the country for foreign cargo,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said, per CNN.

President Joe Biden called on Congress to fund the reconstruction of the bridge during a press conference on Tuesday. While numerous insurance providers will likely pay out, that process could take years to resolve.

During a Wednesday press briefing, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Coast Guard is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to clear the debris and restore shipping access to the port.

In the meantime, Baltimore residents are left with a difficult travel situation due to the loss of the bridge, which carried more than 30,000 cars per day and was a vital route connecting the north and south areas of the city. Rebuilding the bridge could take several years, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article