Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapses after ship collision

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The 1.6-mile-long Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore crumpled and plunged into the Patapsco River early Tuesday morning, when a cargo ship struck the span.

The four-lane Key Bridge is a major artery for the area, and is an essential link for Baltimore City and I-695.  

Crews have searched for as many as seven people who fell into the river after the bridge collapsed around 1:30 a.m., Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace told reporters in a press conference Tuesday morning. Thus far, crews had rescued two people, one uninjured and one in serious condition, according to reports. Water temperatures Tuesday morning were about 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

There were workers doing concrete deck repair on the bridge at the time of the collapse, state Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld told reporters Tuesday morning, according to CNN. 

“We know there were individuals on the bridge at the time of the collapse, working on the bridge, contractors for us,” Wiedefeld said.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency, and said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that an interagency team will work “quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also posted on X early Tuesday, indicating he had spoken with both Moore and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

“This is an unthinkable tragedy,” Scott said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “Our focus should be the preservation of life.”

The strike

The container ship, Dali, that struck the Key Bridge was chartered by Danish shipping company A.P. Moller – Maersk, CNN reported, but no company crew nor personnel were onboard the vessel. Instead, the ship is operated by Synergy Group, a charter vessel company, per CNN, and was flying a Singaporean flag.

Dali was involved in an “incident” at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium in 2016, port authorities told CNN.

But the ship was driven by a local pilot, according to CNN, which is a common practice. Local pilots will take over ships on familiar channels in order to sail vessels in and out safely to avoid incidents like the one Tuesday morning.  

No indication has been given for the exact cause, but officials were quick to declare no belief of intent or an act of terrorism. Nonetheless, the FBI was on the scene Tuesday morning, per multiple reports.

The bridge

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed almost 47 years exactly to the day it opened to traffic.

Construction began on the Key Bridge in 1972, and vehicles began crossing on March 23, 1977, according to Maryland DOT’s website. The bridge cost $60.3 million at the time. It became the final links in I-695.

Named for the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Key Bridge is the outermost of three toll crossings of the Baltimore Harbor. Over 11 million cars cross the bridge annually.

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