2 bodies found in truck at site of Baltimore bridge collapse as investigators pause search for missing workers, police say

The collapse of a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday due to a massive cargo ship collision has left multiple people dead and throttled one of the country’s biggest ports for the foreseeable future.

Here’s the latest:

Search pauses after 2 bodies found: Two construction workers were found trapped in a red pickup in the Patapsco River at the middle of the collapsed bridge, according to the Maryland State Police. Search efforts have been paused for the four other workers who are presumed dead, because additional vehicles are encased in concrete and other debris, making it unsafe for divers, Superintendent Col. Roland L. Butler said. Once salvage operations clear the debris, divers will search for more remains, he said. The workers were believed to be mending potholes on the bridge when it fell, officials said.

• The investigation: A team from the National Transportation Safety Board boarded the ship Tuesday night and Wednesday to gather evidence for their investigation, agency Chair Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday. Officials obtained the ship’s voyage data recorder, Homendy said. The agency was interviewing members of the ship’s crew, including the captain, she said. Investigators have yet to get a sample of the ship’s fuel – they will take one to examine the quality of the marine diesel, she said.

• No threat to the public: Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Gautier, the deputy commandant for operations, said there is no hazmat threat to the public. Of the ship’s 4,700 cargo containers, only two are missing overboard and neither contains hazardous materials, he said. The vessel has over 1.5 million gallons of oil on board but remains stable. The ship had 56 containers of hazardous material – 764 tons – mostly corrosives and flammables, as well as some lithium-ion batteries, the NTSB said.

• Timeline: The first time the crew signaled trouble was when a pilot radioed for help from tugboats at about 1:26 a.m. ET Tuesday – just about three minutes before the ship hit a bridge column, the NTSB said Wednesday, citing a timeline of events as provided by the recovered voyage data recorder.

• Ship lost power before crash: Just minutes before impact, there was a “total blackout” of engine and electrical power on the ship, according to Clay Diamond, executive director of the American Pilots Association.

• Crew: Twenty-one crew members and two maritime pilots were aboard the Singaporean-flagged container ship, the NTSB said. The crew members as of Wednesday evening remained on the ship, which was set for a nearly monthlong voyage to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Data timeline shows pilot warned ship was powerless and headed toward bridge

The Francis Scott Key Bridge toppled shortly before 1:30 a.m. ET Tuesday when the Dali, a 213-million-pound loaded cargo vessel, lost power while trying to leave the port and smashed into one of the bridge’s support columns, sending people and vehicles into the frigid Patapsco River.

According to a timeline provided Wednesday by the NTSB, alarms on the ship blared just before 1:25 a.m. ET Tuesday as the ship moved through the channel as it left the port. About that time, the voyage data recorder ceased documenting things like audio, GPS positions and speed. (Video available before the NTSB released its timeline shows the ship’s lights going out at 1:24 a.m., before turning back on, and then flickering off and on again between 1:26 a.m. and 1:27 a.m.)

The data recording resumed at 1:26:02 a.m. – about 63 seconds after the alarms started – and the pilot could be heard issuing steering commands to the crew, according to the NTSB timeline.

At 1:26:39 a.m., the pilot sent out a radio call for help from tugboats, which typically help ships in earlier stages of leaving port. About the same time, a pilot association dispatcher phoned the Maryland Transportation Authority duty officer regarding the ship’s lights blacking out, according to the NTSB.

At 1:27:04 a.m., the pilot ordered for one anchor to be dropped and gave additional steering commands.

The pilot radioed just a short time later that the ship had lost power and was closing in on the bridge. A duty officer for the transportation authority, using radio, ordered other transportation authority officers to shut down traffic to the bridge – those officers were already on site because construction work was happening there, the NTSB said.

At 1:29:33 a.m., the ship’s recorder captured sounds consistent with the vessel striking the bridge, the NTSB said. Six seconds later, the pilot reported to the Coast Guard by radio that the bridge was down, the NTSB said.

City economy hurt by port closure

The collapse of the bridge and the resulting closure of the port will have major repercussions on the city’s economy as well as on the country’s supply chain, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday. The Baltimore port is the largest in the US for autos and light trucks, handling a record 850,000 vehicles last year.

Buttigieg said there are four main focus points ahead: reopening the port, dealing with supply chain issues until its reopening, rebuilding the bridge and dealing with road transportation issues until the bridge is rebuilt.

“Rebuilding will not be quick, or easy, or cheap, but we will get it done,” he said.

The Dali cargo ship is seen a day after crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. - Mike Segar/Reuters
The Dali cargo ship is seen a day after crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. - Mike Segar/Reuters

Officials have yet to provide a timeline for reopening. President Joe Biden said he intends for the federal government to cover the full repair costs and called on Congress to support rebuilding efforts.

LIVE UPDATES: Baltimore bridge collapses after ship collision

Victims were construction workers on night shift

Eight construction workers were believed to be mending potholes on the bridge when it fell, according to officials. Two survived but crews searched the frigid waters throughout the day Wednesday for the remaining six.

Two of the workers, a 35-year-old and a 26-year-old, were found trapped in a red truck. They were identified by authorities as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, of Mexico, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, of Guatemala. Both now lived in the Baltimore area.

Their bodies were recovered from the waters Wednesday, according to Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland L. Butler.

The four other workers are presumed dead, officials have said.

Among the missing victims is Miguel Luna, a father of three, and Maynor Suazo, a father and entrepreneur.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala said another Guatemalan was also unaccounted for: a 35-year-old from Camotán, Chiquimula. Another of the missing is also a Mexican national, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said.

Brawner Builders Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pritzker told CNN seven of his employees were on the bridge on the night of the collapse. Just one survived.

“These were wonderful young men. They were doing a tough job. These guys were hardworking wonderful people and now they’re gone,” Pritzker said.

He said the company is in the process of putting together compensation packages for the victims’ families.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore praised divers who worked in “pitch dark conditions, in frigid temperatures, in high tides and high winds, with mangled metal all around them.”

Moore told CNN the collapse was a “catastrophic and horrific occurrence” for the state and for the families of those missing, who he was able to speak with Tuesday.

“They reminded us who these individuals were – that they weren’t just special workers who were doing important work for the city and for the state, but they were people who were husbands and sons and fathers and brothers-in-law,” Moore said. “So, this is a really devastated community of families.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Wednesday asked for people to have “a little bit of decency and respect” when it comes to online discourse about the fatal bridge collapse.

“Don’t spread misinformation. Don’t play bridge engineer online or in the media. Remember that these are people’s family members who have lost their lives simply trying to make transit better for the rest of us,” he said.

Port’s closure to have major impact

The vessel and all of its contents still sit in the middle of the channel, its bow draped with massive pieces of the mangled steel bridge.

Gautier, the Coast Guard vice admiral, said the vessel is stable but has over 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil and lube oil on board. The ship has 4,700 cargo containers and 56 of those contain hazardous materials. Two containers with non-hazardous materials are missing overboard, and 13 containers on the bow of the ship were damaged, he said.

Ten other ships are stuck inside the port in the wake of the bridge’s collapse, federal authorities said Wednesday.

In the meantime, the port’s economic impact stretches well beyond Maryland. It indirectly employs over 140,000 people and handles more foreign cargo than any other port in the country, the governor said.

“This isn’t just about the impact this is going to have on Maryland’s economy. This is the impact that’s going to have on our country’s economy,” Moore said.

Buttigieg said he does not have an estimated reopening time for the Patapsco River channel,

“Not only do we need to get those ships in, there are some ships that are already in there that can’t get out. So, it’s very important to get that channel open,” he said.

Ship’s pilot did ‘everything he could,’ pilot association official says

Pieces of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are draped over the cargo ship Dali on Tuesday. - Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Pieces of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are draped over the cargo ship Dali on Tuesday. - Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The pilot of the ship did “everything that he could have done” to both slow the vessel down and keep it from drifting toward the bridge once it lost power, said Diamond, the American Pilots Association director.

Diamond told CNN he has been in close communication with the Association of Maryland Pilots regarding what unfolded on the ship in the moments leading up to the crash.

The pilot quickly gave a string of orders, calling for the anchor to be dropped and the rudder to be pulled as far left as possible, Diamond said. He also called the dispatch office to shut down traffic on the bridge – an action several officials have credited with saving lives.

Dropping the anchor was in line with standard emergency procedures, but the speed and mass of a ship determine whether the anchor will hold, a former pilot for the Association of Maryland Pilots told CNN.

“We’re thankful that between the mayday and the collapse, that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not on the bridge,” Moore said Tuesday.

But the extraordinary size of the vessel and its proximity to the bridge meant there was little hope for avoiding the crash, Diamond said.

“Those were all the appropriate steps, but it happened so quickly and with so little lead time … neither one of those maneuvers were enough,” said Diamond.

Maritime pilots, who are required to be licensed, temporarily board a ship and help guide the vessel as it maneuvers through local waters.

Questions over previous incidents involving ship and management company

Police recovery crews work near the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. - Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Police recovery crews work near the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday. - Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

As officials worked to investigate the collapse Tuesday, questions emerged over previous issues with the ship and its management company.

The ship was briefly held at the Port of San Antonio in Chile on June 27, 2023, when an inspector found that the pressure gauges for the vessel’s heating system were “unreadable,” a spokesperson for the Chilean Navy said.

Ships managed by the Synergy Marine Group have been involved in at least three deadly incidents since 2018 in Australia, Singapore and the Philippines, according to officials in those countries.

In 2018, a member onboard of a vessel managed by Synergy in Australia was killed in an accident involving the ship’s personnel elevator, according to a report from the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau.

In 2019, an officer on a Synergy-registered vessel in Singapore was reported missing after “likely (falling) overboard while performing inspection or cleaning jobs,” according to a report by the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau of Singapore’s Ministry of Transport.

In 2023, at least one sailor was killed when a Synergy Marine-managed tanker collided with a dredging ship in the Philippines, causing it to capsize, according to an incident report from the Philippines Coast Guard.

Synergy Marine Group is focused on the Baltimore incident, spokesperson Charlie Ridgeway told CNN in a phone call Wednesday. “It would be inappropriate to discuss any previous incidents at this time.”

CNN’s Majlie de Puy Kamp, Flora Charner, Sarah Engel, Jack Forrest, Allison Gordon, Elise Hammond, Jennifer Henderson, Betsy Klein, Jamiel Lynch, Sean Lyngaas, Mary Kay Mallonee, Lauren Mascarenhas, Eric Levenson, Danny Freeman, Linh Tran, Pete Muntean, Tori B. Powell, Rachel Ramirez, Maria Santana, Amy Simonson, Sabrina Souza, Aditi Sangal, Eve Brennan, Bex Wright and Michael Williams contributed to this report.

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