Rare Mayday Situation Preceded Bridge Collapse; 6 Men Presumed Dead

By Jason Hall

March 27, 2024

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapses After Being Struck By Cargo Ship
Photo: Getty Images

The Dali container ship that crashed into a major bridge in Baltimore, causing to it collapse, experienced a rare mayday situation just prior to the collision, NBC News reports.

The nearly 1,000-foot long Singaporean vessel apparently lost power, making it rudderless as it traveled through currents, four minutes before colliding into a pillar supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

“The worst sound you ever hear on a ship is dead silence, because that means everything’s gone wrong,” said Salvatore Mercogliano, a maritime expert and historian, via NBC News.

At least six men who were working for Brawner Builders to fill potholes on the center span of the bridge at the time of the collapse are presumed dead, Brawner Builders executive vice president Jeffrey Pritzker said via the Baltimore Banner Tuesday (March 26) night.

“We’re presuming that they are not alive because they were thrown into the bay in an area that’s 50 feet deep, with 46 degree temperature, probably buried under tons of steel,” Pritzker said.

The presumed casualties were identified as natives of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico in their 30s and 40s who had spouses and children and reported to be living in Dundalk and Highlandtown. The ship collided with a pillar supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which carries Interstate 695 over the Patapsco River.

Two people were rescued from the water and at least seven others were reported missing as of Tuesday morning. One person rescued was reported to be in good condition and refused treatment while the other was seriously injured and transported to a local trauma center, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace confirmed during a news conference via NBC News.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency in relation to the incident and planned to deploy federal resources at the scene.

Video footage from the scene showed smoke billowing from the ship as the bridge and road crashed into the Patapsco River.

Cars and trucks were present on the bridge just before the collision occurred and underwater drones, as well as sonar and infrared surveillance tools used at the scene confirmed that several cars had crashed into the river, according to Wallace, who noted that the number of people missing and vehicles on the bridge was undetermined. The ship didn't sink following the crash as its lights remained on.

Authorities also plan to use helicopters to survey the scene from the air Tuesday morning.

"We are still very much in an active search and rescue posture at this point," Wallace said via NBC News.

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