Two Baltimore bridge collapse victims recovered, other vehicles found

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Divers recovered the bodies of two construction workers who died when a massive cargo ship struck and collapsed a Baltimore bridge, as investigators revealed Wednesday that hazardous material was leaking from breached containers on the stranded vessel and state and federal lawmakers rushed to begin the recovery from the disaster that crippled the Port of Baltimore.
Rescue crews found the victims shortly before 10 a.m. trapped in a red pickup truck in about 25 feet of water in the Patapsco River near the mid-span of the hulking wreck of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Maryland State Police Secretary Roland L. Butler Jr. said at a news conference.
The conditions were treacherous for the divers, so Butler said they were suspending the search for the bodies of four other construction workers who plunged to their deaths when the container ship in distress struck the bridge shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, causing it to fall. The workers are believed to be the only victims in the disaster.
Butler said they had uncovered a horrific scene beneath the waves — other vehicles trapped and probably containing the other victims.
“Based on sonar scans, we firmly believe that the vehicles are encased in the superstructure and concrete that we tragically saw come down,” Butler said.
The victims recovered were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk, Md. Other victims identified Wednesday were Maynor Suazo Sandoval, 38, from Honduras, and Miguel Luna, from El Salvador, who was the father of three. The names of the remaining two victims have not been released.
“He was always so happy to be able to share what little he was able to make over there in the United States,” said Hector Guardado, a nephew of Suazo Sandoval. “Everyone else always came first.”
Officials said an injured victim was released from the hospital Wednesday.
National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference Wednesday that investigators had boarded the 985-foot Dali, recovered information from a data recorder and begun interviews of the crew. Homendy said 56 containers onboard contained 764 tons of hazardous materials, including corrosives, flammables and items like lithium-ion batteries. Some containers, she said, had been breached.
“We have seen sheen on the waterway,” Homendy said.
Homendy said that before the collapse, the bridge was in “satisfactory condition.” She said crew members and two pilots remain on the ship, but it was unclear when they will be allowed to disembark.
NTSB officials provided a timeline of the collision gleaned from the data recorder, showing that the Dali left port at 12:39 a.m. Tuesday. At 1:24 a.m., audible alarms began sounding and a data sensor onboard briefly stopped working as the vessel sailed in the main shipping channel out of the port. About two minutes later, the pilot called for assistance from tugboats in the area and soon placed a call to a Maryland Transportation Authority duty officer about a blackout on the ship.
At 1:27 a.m., the pilot ordered the Dali to drop an anchor. That same minute, the pilot radioed that the Dali had lost all power and was approaching the Key Bridge. Around the same time, Maryland Transportation Authority officers rushed to close the bridge to oncoming traffic. The data revealed that the Dali struck the bridge at 1:29 a.m. while traveling about seven knots, or eight miles an hour.
On March 27, the National Transportation Safety Board gave a preliminary timeline of the Dali collision using information collected from the ship’s recorder. (Video: The Washington Post)
Unlike many modern bridges, Homendy said, the Key Bridge was constructed in 1977 without redundant structures that would keep it from toppling if a major support was struck. She said the NTSB investigation would probably take 12 to 24 months.
State and federal lawmakers pledged to move quickly to remove the hulking debris of the bridge from the Patapsco as well as allocate funds to ease the local and national economic fallout from the partial closure of one of the nation’s largest ports.
But the White House and Maryland officials offered no timeline for when the major shipping hub might resume normal operations or how long it might take to rebuild the fallen span on a major East Coast artery, even as experts said the recovery would probably be measured in months and years.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on March 27 outlined the federal response after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post)
“We are concerned about implications that ripple out beyond the immediate region because of the port’s role in our supply chain,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “This is an important port for both imports and exports.” He added later: “Rebuilding will not be quick or easy or cheap, but we will get it done.”
More than 15,000 jobs are directly tied to the Port of Baltimore and nearly 140,000 linked to port activities, according to port figures. The port handles the largest volume of cars, farm and construction machinery, and imported gypsum in the nation.
Nearly $81 billion worth of foreign cargo passed through the port in 2023, according to its figures. The port generates nearly $400 million in local and state tax revenue each year.
Buttigieg said he was working to free up emergency relief funds requested by Maryland and would probably ask Congress to allocate more in the coming days. Meanwhile, Maryland legislative leaders proposed emergency legislation Wednesday to replace port workers’ lost income and prevent the permanent loss of business as companies turn to other ports.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter W. Gautier said at the White House briefing that his agency’s main focus will be restoring access to the channel blocked by the fallen bridge. He said the Coast Guard will work on stabilizing the vessel, which has more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil onboard.
Gautier said the Dali has about 4,700 cargo containers onboard. He said two cargo containers fell into the river, but they did not contain hazardous materials. He said the Dali was sitting on the bed of the Patapsco River.
State legislators introduced the Maryland Protecting Opportunity and Regional Trade Act, which would authorize Gov. Wes Moore (D) to use a portion of the state’s $2 billion rainy-day fund to mitigate some of the immediate economic impacts of the port closure.
“Fundamentally, it’s about protecting the economic engine that we have in the city of Baltimore,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said, “but it really is about American resiliency.”
Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) joined Ferguson to relay early details of the bill, emphasizing that state leaders need to act now to make sure Baltimore doesn’t permanently lose some of the business that typically moves through marine terminals at Locust Point, Fairfield, Seagirt — all places now blocked by the debris of the Key Bridge.
Livestream video shows the moment the cargo ship Dali crashed into Baltimore’s Key Bridge early March 26. (Video: Streamtime Live Via Youtube)
The Democratic leaders mentioned the specter of forever losing cruise line business as ships reroute and dock in Norfolk. Other economic activity has been diverted to ports elsewhere, like those in Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia, they said.
“We’re doing what we need to do to make sure that the business comes back after all this is done,” Clippinger said.
Lawmakers did not specify a cap for how much money will be used to weather the economic hardship of closing the port but said the historic amount in the rainy-day fund was put aside for this type of emergency.
“Funds are available through the rainy day fund for what is raining and pouring,” Ferguson said. “No one can imagine the Key Bridge being in the water right now. This is as rainy as it gets.”
Benjamin Schafer, professor of civil and systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University, said the timeline for recovery could be very long. He estimated that it could take weeks or months to remove the debris from the bridge collapse and reopen the shipping channel serving the Port of Baltimore.
Some experts hoped the bridge could be rebuilt on an expedited timeline over several years, but Schafer said it could take far longer and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It took five years to build the original one,” Schafer said. “I lived through quite a lot of civil infrastructure projects and they are rarely less than 10 years, so I think that’s what we are looking at.”
The efforts by police officers to save lives before the tragedy also came into sharper focus. Moore hailed their actions as heroic on Tuesday.
Two Maryland Transportation Authority police officers stopped traffic from coming onto the bridge moments before the freighter hit and it collapsed, saving lives, said Jim Kruszynski, president of FOP Lodge 34, the union representing Maryland Transportation Authority officers.
“They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t think about it. They just did it,” Kruszynski said in an interview. “Their quick actions, without a doubt, saved lives.” Both officers were working overtime construction detail, which officers are normally assigned to at construction projects throughout the state to keep crews and travelers safe by assisting with road closures and other needs, Kruszynski said.
One officer was stationed at the base on each side of the bridge, according to Kruszynski. Once the pilot of the ship put out the mayday and the officers received it, “they immediately sprang into action,” he said.
“Their first instincts were to stop all traffic from getting up onto the bridge, one on each side,” Kruszynski said. “There’s no doubt that their actions saved lives. There are people alive today that most likely would have perished when that bridge came down if they hadn’t stopped traffic.”
Before the collapse, one of the officers was about to go up the bridge to try to get the crew off, Kruszynski said, but there wasn’t enough time. Since the officer was holding up traffic, he had to wait for another officer to relieve him before going up or else cars would start moving again, Kruszynski said.
“He was waiting for another officer to hold the traffic so he could run up there and get the rest of the crew down,” he said. “But unfortunately … there was just no time to do all that at once.”
The officers are safe, Kruszynski said.
“They are heroes,” Kruszynski said, echoing Moore’s comments. “Because without a doubt, people went home that night, people from the public went home, because they acted so quickly. More people would have most likely perished had they not done what they did.”
Katie Shepherd, Teo Armus and Emily Davies contributed to this report.
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Date : 2024-03-28 03:17:00

Author : PhotoVideoMag

Publish date : 2024-03-31 01:14:23

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