Horror In Baltimore As Major Bridge Collapses After Collision

A search and rescue effort is underway after the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Interstate 695 in Baltimore collapsed early Tuesday when it was struck by a ship, causing a number of vehicles to plunge into the Patapsco River below.

Eight people are believed to have fallen into the water following the collapse just before 1:30 a.m. Six of those individuals remained unaccounted for as of 10 a.m. local time, authorities said at a press conference.

The eight people were part of a construction crew filling potholes, said Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld. Their work had nothing to do with the structure of the bridge, which was up to code, Gov. Wes Moore said.

Two of those people were pulled from the water, said James Wallace, fire chief of Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD), at an earlier press conference. One person was uninjured and refused treatment, while the other was transported to a local trauma center and is in “very serious condition.”

Footage shared on social media showed the moment of the collapse:

The ship lost power and sent out a mayday call immediately before colliding with the bridge. This alert prompted workers on the bridge to stop vehicles from continuing onto it, said Moore.

“These people are heroes,” he said of those workers.

Dive teams were at the scene, with sonar having detected the presence of submerged vehicles, Wallace said earlier. The temperature at the port was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the incident.

BCFD’s Wallace, speaking with CNN, said they had detected three passenger vehicles, a cement truck and a fifth vehicle submerged in the water using infrared and sonar technology. Authorities have not said whether there could be people trapped inside.

“This is an unthinkable tragedy,” Mayor Brandon Scott said. “We have to first and foremost pray for all of those who are impacted.”

Baltimore Chief Richard Worley said, “There’s absolutely no indication that there’s any terrorism” or that the ship crash was intentional.

Moore also said that a preliminary investigation “points to an accident.”

A helicopter flies over a container ship as it rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday.
A helicopter flies over a container ship as it rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday. via Associated Press

Asked about the possibility of a chemical spill, Wallace said they’ve noticed “odors of diesel fuel” but haven’t been able to confirm there’s a spill. All of the officials at the news conference stressed the fast-moving and changing nature of the situation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he’s spoken with Moore and Mayor Scott to offer support following the collapse.

The ship was registered with Singapore and operating with 22 crew members on board. The container vessel’s manager, Synergy Marine Group, told Reuters that they have all been accounted for.

The vessel experienced a “momentary loss of propulsion” and dropped its anchors as part of emergency procedures before impact, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement.

“As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired heading and collided with the Francis Scott Key bridge,” it said.

The container ship was built in 2015 and the following year it was involved in a minor collision with a wall in Antwerp, Belgium, which resulted in significant damage to its hull, according to maritime websites Shipwreck Log and Vessel Finder.

The incident took place in good weather and was blamed on a mistake by the master and pilot on board, according to Vessel Finder.

The 1.6-mile bridge, which opened in 1977, is named for the author of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Key was near the current location of the bridge as he watched the American flag flying from nearby Fort McHenry during a British bombardment in the War of 1812, inspiring the poem that became the song.

The Maryland Transportation Authority said some 11.3 million cars pass over the bridge each year.

Mayor Scott said it was unbelievable to see the Key Bridge tumble, adding, “It was like something out of an action movie.”

This is a developing story.