Six Workers Feared Dead in Baltimore Bridge Collapse; Search Halted

Calista Alma
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March 27, 2024

Six workers are presumed dead after a devastating bridge collapse in Baltimore early Tuesday, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend search-and-rescue operations. Maryland State Police have shifted focus to recovery efforts, acknowledging the grim reality of the situation. Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath expressed little hope of finding survivors, characterizing the incident as an “unthinkable tragedy” with far-reaching implications for commerce and transportation.

According to Brawner Builders Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pritzker, the missing workers, whose identities were not disclosed, are believed to have perished due to the depth of the water and the elapsed time since the collapse. The sudden catastrophe has left the company reeling, as safety measures in place did not anticipate such a disaster.

Among those anxiously awaiting news is María del Carmen Castellón, whose husband, Miguel Luna, is among the missing. Despite restricted access to the disaster site, family members like Castellón remain hopeful yet devastated, clinging to any shred of information.

Governor Wes Moore and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin expressed solidarity with the families affected, emphasizing that rescue efforts persist. The crew, engaged in bridge repairs, was caught off guard when a cargo ship collided with the structure, causing it to crumble into the Patapsco River below. While two workers were rescued from the water, no occupants were found in the vehicles that plunged into the river.

The cargo ship, owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd., reported no injuries among its crew, underscoring the stark contrast in outcomes between those on the vessel and the workers on the bridge.

Moments before the tragic collapse of the Baltimore bridge, officers were on the verge of alerting the construction crew when disaster struck, as revealed by radio transmissions archived on Broadcastify.com.

The Maryland Transportation Authority’s radio traffic captured the urgency unfolding, with a dispatcher issuing a call to halt traffic due to a ship’s reported loss of steering. Within minutes, officers swiftly halted traffic on the bridge, a crucial action hailed by Governor Moore as heroic and life-saving.

In a poignant turn of events, an officer intending to notify the construction crew was interrupted by the abrupt collapse of the entire bridge, as captured in a frantic radio transmission. The swift and unforeseen calamity left uncertainty regarding whether the crew received any warning to evacuate the span.

Maryland’s transportation secretary, Paul Wiedefeld, provided updates on the toll of the disaster, indicating that six individuals remain missing, one was hospitalized, and another escaped injury. As news of the collapse spread, neighboring jurisdictions mobilized rescue resources, with the U.S. Coast Guard deploying ships and helicopters to assist in the emergency response.

In a harrowing turn of events, a container ship experienced a critical power failure, resulting in a collision with one of the bridge’s support columns. The impact caused a rapid and catastrophic collapse of a section of the bridge, plunging it into the river below. Described as reminiscent of scenes from an action movie, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott labeled the incident as “an unthinkable tragedy.”

The repercussions of the collapse are anticipated to reverberate for months, if not years, particularly along the East Coast. The disruption is expected to severely impact operations at the Port of Baltimore, a crucial shipping hub, leading to significant logistical challenges. Furthermore, the accident is poised to cause extensive disruptions to both cargo and commuter traffic, exacerbating the already complex aftermath of the disaster.

Highway signs as far south as Virginia forewarned drivers of impending delays due to the bridge collapse, which occurred when the container ship, managed by Synergy Marine Group, struck a pillar of the bridge around 1:30 a.m. Despite the vessel being under the guidance of one or more local pilots, all crew members and pilots were reported safe, with no injuries.

Maritime historian Sal Mercogliano highlighted the critical timing of the power loss aboard the ship, emphasizing the ensuing chaos for the crew as systems went offline. He analyzed video footage capturing the ship’s descent into darkness and subsequent attempts to regain control amid thick smoke billowing from the smokestack.

The monumental task of rebuilding the bridge, spanning the Patapsco River and serving as a gateway to a bustling harbor, poses significant logistical challenges. With an estimated timeframe of more than a year, if not two, for reconstruction, alternate routes and transit options are being explored to manage the anticipated traffic overflow.

Approximately 31,000 vehicles per day relied on the Key Bridge, and rerouting this traffic through alternate passages, such as the harbor tunnels, will require strategic planning and increased personnel to mitigate potential backups. Furthermore, adjustments must be made for hazardous material transport, as trucks previously utilizing the bridge will necessitate new routes.

In light of the disruption, transit alternatives are under consideration to alleviate the strain on commuters and freight transport systems, signaling a comprehensive effort to adapt to the aftermath of the catastrophe.

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