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Container Ship Slams Baltimore’s Key Bridge, Officials Say Vessel Lost Power Just Before Impact

Authorities declare mass casualty event at collapsed bridge in Baltimore, call it a “dire emergency.”
The Francis Scott Key Bridge. justthenews.com
The Francis Scott Key Bridge. justthenews.com

A container ship slammed into a Baltimore bridge early Tuesday, causing it to collapse and send vehicles and road crew members into a river in what authorities declared “a dire emergency.”

The incident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, prompting an emergency search-and-rescue operation in the frigid waters of the Patapsco River.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at a mid-morning press conference that the ship lost power moments before striking the bridge. And the crew reportedly sent out distress signals in the minutes before impact.

"We're quickly gathering the details," Moore said. "The preliminary investigation points to an accident. We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack."

Exactly how many people fell into the river, which leads out of the Baltimore harbor and into the Atlantic Ocean, remained unclear by midday. However, authorities have said at least two were pulled from the water and that at least six members of a road crew on the bridge also fell into the river and are still missing.

News reports state officials were able to stop motorists from going onto the bridge before its collapse, but by midday it remained unclear whether they were able to halt all traffic.

Video posted on the social media platform X showed the ship striking one of the support columns of the 1.6-mile bridge, causing it to collapse and plunge into the water. Air temperatures were in the mid-30s, and the water temperature was about 47 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the incident.

The vessel has been identified as the container ship Dali.

Authorities say the ship had just left the Port of Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka when the incident occurred and was not being piloted by its own crew. They said local pilots are used specifically to avoid such accidents, according to CNN.

The news outlet also reports a puff of smoke coming from the ship right before the crash occurred and that a power failure on the ship appeared to have occurred before it struck the pylon.

“Never would you think that you would see, physically see, the Key Bridge tumble down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

Authorities also said a crew was working on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

“This is a dire emergency,” Kevin Cartwright, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman, told The Associated Press. “Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people.”

He called the collapse a “developing mass casualty event.”

The bridge, opened in 1977 and named for the man who penned America’s national anthem, is a vital artery along the busy Port of Baltimore where scores of container ships transport cargo every day.

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