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VIDEO: Baltimore Bridge Collapse Rescue Efforts Suspended

Baltimore bridge collapse
Baltimore bridge collapse | Image Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

UPDATE 1 a.m. Wednesday

The search for six construction workers who fell into the Patapsco River after Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge was rammed by a container ship early Tuesday has been called off.

Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath held a press conference and said that the search for the missing men would be suspended.

“Based on the length of time that we’ve gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we’ve put into it, the water temperature, that at this point, we do not believe that we’re going to find any of these individuals still alive. So, this evening, at about 7:30 p.m., we are going to suspend the active search and rescue efforts,” said Gilreath, explaining that the Coast Guard and others would remain on site but would transition to a “different phase.”

A container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday morning, causing the bridge to collapse and sending cars and workers into the water below.

At least two people have been rescued, but authorities do not know exactly how many people were on the bridge when the incident occurred. A chilling video of the moment the ship struck the bridge and caused it to collapse has been circulating online.

Authorities say a work crew was performing repairs on the bridge at the time of the collapse. Six people are known to be missing as rescue operations continue. The two rescued individuals were part of the repair crew servicing manhole covers and masonry.

The incident happened at 1:30 a.m. local time when the container ship Dali lost power while being operated by port authority pilots. The ship sent a mayday signal moments before the impact, but there was no time to evacuate the bridge, which came down seconds after the impact.

President Joe Biden held a press conference on Tuesday to update the media on the federal government’s efforts regarding the collapse.

“We are going to send all of the federal resources that they need as we respond to this emergency,” Biden said. “And I mean all of the federal resources. We are going to rebuild that port together.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at a press conference on Tuesday that authorities were able to stop traffic ahead of the accident, preventing even more vehicles from being on the bridge at the time of the impact.

“We had officials that were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so that more cars were not on the bridge,” Moore said. “Many of the vehicles were stopped before they got on the bridge, which saved lives.”

Kevin Cartwright, the Baltimore Fire Department’s (BFD) communications director, told The Washington Post that up to 20 people could be in the water. BFD described the collapse as a “mass casualty incident.”

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), whose congressional district includes the Port of Baltimore, said he has spoken directly with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the White House, who were purportedly responding to the tragedy with “all of the assets at their disposal,” he wrote on X.

“The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse is an unthinkable horror,” Mfume continued. “Our prayers right now are for the missing individuals and victims of this tragedy. We thank God for the effective service of our first responders.”

Search and rescue teams have identified several cars in the water using sonar but have not released details on whether the vehicles were occupied at the time of the collapse. The water is about 50 feet deep and was 47 degrees Tuesday morning.

A person would have between 30 minutes and three hours to survive the water temperature, according to a hypothermia chart published by Westpac Marine. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body’s organs shut down, eventually causing unconsciousness and death.

The bridge, named after the author of The Star-Spangled Banner, was the third-longest truss bridge in the world, spanning a distance of 1,200 feet.

Ian Firth, a British structural engineer and bridge designer, told The Washington Post that the age of construction — 1977 — meant the bridge’s structural supports had inadequate protective barriers for the size of ships in use today. He also noted that the ship hit at an angle that made the problem worse.

Local, state, and federal search and rescue teams are continuing to search for survivors and to determine the number of casualties from the tragic accident.

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