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April 16, 2024

Baltimore declares state of emergency after Key Bridge collapses

By CATHY WANG | March 26, 2024

the-francis-scott-key-bridge-baltimore-cropped

PATORJK / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Francis Scott Key Bridge opened in 1977 in honor of Maryland poet Francis Scott Key, the author of the American national anthem. It was part of I-695 and served as one of the three toll crossings of Baltimore’s Harbor. 

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed early Tuesday, March 26 after a large container ship crashed into a support column. A construction crew of eight people and at least seven cars were on the bridge and fell into the Patapsco River.

The crash occurred at around 1:30 a.m., and the bridge collapsed in a matter of seconds. Two construction workers, who were repairing potholes on the bridge at the time of impact, have been rescued, while the remaining six other workers are presumed dead. Measurements on Tuesday indicate that the water temperature was cold enough to cause hypothermia.

Extensive search and rescue efforts were coordinated by personnel from local fire and police departments, the Coast Guard and the Baltimore Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as multiple air and marine units. Using infrared and sonar technology, search and rescue crews have identified five vehicles about 50 feet underwater, including three passenger vehicles. It is unclear if the vehicles had occupants. 

Maryland Governor Wes Moore has declared a State of Emergency. In a statement, Moore emphasized his commitment to the matter.

“We are working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration. We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone's safety,” he wrote.

Jim Bellingham, executive director for the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy and an expert in marine robotics, explained the challenges of the rescue to USA TODAY.

“Nothing is staying put in the ocean,” he said. “‘Everything is moving’ in the Patapsco River, a tidal estuary, which presents just one difficulty for rescue efforts. Rescuers would have to determine the speed and direction of the current to figure out where to search — toward Baltimore Harbor, or out toward the Chesapeake Bay.”

On Tuesday night, about 18 hours after the accident, U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland State Police officials suspended the active search-and-rescue operations, as dive teams faced increasing challenges. 

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said there was no hope of finding the missing workers alive due to the temperature of the water and the length of time since the accident. However, the teams hoped to return to the waters after sunrise on Wednesday to recover the workers’ remains.

The Singapore-flagged ship, named Dali, was carrying cargo for the Danish shipping company Maersk. The vessel is about 984 feet long and was scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka later this week. Before the collision, the ship’s crew issued a “mayday,” notifying authorities that the vessel had lost power. Following this call, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police stopped cars from driving onto the bridge just before the crash. 

Multiple agencies are currently investigating the incident. In a briefing, Moore said that the investigation so far points to an accident and there was no credible evidence of terrorism. In addition, the bridge was up to code, and there were no known structural issues. 

Hopkins released a statement following the collapse of the bridge.

“We all awoke to the devastating news of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and everyone at Johns Hopkins is deeply saddened by this tragedy,” the statement reads. “The bridge stood as a powerful symbol of Baltimore’s strength and resilience. Our thoughts today are with everyone in this community, especially those whose families, friends, and loved ones may be affected by this tragic event. #BmoreStrong”

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore James Yoon echoed the University’s sentiments and expressed his condolences for the loss.

“This is a horrible tragedy. The whole Hopkins community should send prayers and rally behind our great city of Baltimore,” he said.

According to Hopkins, Many resources are available for our community during this time. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, these services include The Johns Hopkins Employee Assistance Program, RISE, Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy, and the Office of Well-Being. University affiliates and household members can reach out to The Johns Hopkins Employee Assistance Program or find student wellness resources at https://wellbeing.jhu.edu/.


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