Bridge collapses in Baltimore river after vessel hits support column

A container ship struck a support column for Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, sending it plunging into the river. At least six people are missing.


National News

March 26, 2024 - 1:23 PM

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday, March 26, after a support column was struck by a container ship headed for Sri Lanka. Photo by Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun/TNS

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday morning after a support column was struck by a container ship, sending at least seven cars into the Patapsco River, launching a search-and-rescue operation and prompting Gov. Wes Moore to declare a state of emergency.

The crew had issued a “mayday” saying that it had lost power and propulsion before hitting the bridge, authorities said, calling it an accident.

In a Tuesday morning news conference, just a few hours after the incident, Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace said authorities are “still very much in an active search and rescue posture,” noting they are searching for “upwards of seven individuals” and that sonar has detected the presence of vehicles in the water. 

“This is a tragedy that you could never imagine,” Mayor Brandon Scott said.

Video from the incident shows the container ship, billowing smoke, colliding with a support beam and quickly causing much of the bridge to collapse. Just before the collision, the ship’s lights appear to turn off, then on, then off again.

The ship had been under the operation of a pilot.

All traffic has been rerouted from the 1.6-mile steel bridge that is part of Interstate 695.

“We know that we have a long road ahead, not just in search and rescue, but in the fallout from this,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in the news conference.

Priscilla Thompson, who lives on the water in Dundalk facing the Key Bridge, was awoken in the middle of the night by the horrible sound of crashing steel.

“I really thought it was an earthquake or something because it shook this house so bad,” she said. “It shook it — it really rattled it — for four or five seconds.”

“And then, it got real quiet,” she said.

Moore said in a statement that he has declared a state of emergency and will work to “quickly deploy federal resources.”

“We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone’s safety,” Moore said in the statement. “We will remain in close contact with federal, state, and local entities that are carrying out rescue efforts as we continue to assess and respond to this tragedy.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said the 948-foot, Singapore-flagged cargo ship Dali struck the bridge at approximately 1:20 a.m.

“We are deploying assets in response,” said Petty Officer First Class Matthew West, including two response boats from Curtis Bay and one from Annapolis. A helicopter was also deployed to assist in the “search and rescue” and several police helicopters were seen circling the area Tuesday morning.

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