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Transportationby Brew Editors7:52 amMar 26, 20240

Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapses after being struck by cargo ship

A search-and-rescue operation was underway with officials saying at least seven people were believed to have fallen into the water below

Above: The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after being struck by a large container ship just before 1:30 a.m. (Youtube StreamTimeLive)

Search-and-rescue teams were searching the Patapsco River this morning after a cargo ship struck Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing the bridge’s three main spans to quickly collapse, sending at least seven people into the frigid waters below.

“Sonar has detected the presence of cars in the water,” Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace said, as dive teams from multiple agencies working in the pre-dawn hours looked for survivors and helicopters surveyed the scene from the air.

Wallace said two people were pulled from the water, one of whom was taken to a local trauma center in “very serious condition.”

Officials said a 948-foot-long container ship, the Dali, was less than 30 minutes into its journey to Sri Lanka when it struck one of the bridge’s two main supports just before 1:30 a.m.

Video footage of the moments before impact appears to show lights on the ship blinking off twice, suggesting it had lost power, and black smoke rising from the vessel.

The main truss and two side trusses of the bridge can be seen breaking apart, bending and collapsing like a child’s Erector Set within seconds of the  impact.

Impact occurs at about the 1:28 a.m. mark. (Youtube/ StreamTimeLive)

Wallace said he believed the crew members to be still onboard the ship, which was chartered by the shipping company Maersk and owned by Singapore’s Grace Ocean Pte.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said there was no indication that the crash was intentional or an act of terrorism.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge crosses the outer harbor between Hawkins Point in far South Baltimore and Sollers Point near Dundalk.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge crosses the outer harbor between Hawkins Point in far South Baltimore and Sollers Point near Dundalk.

Crash Shuts I-695

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency as transportation officials warned motorists to steer clear of the area. Detours have been set up to take travelers to the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895) and Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95) under the Patapsco River.

The collapse of the only bridge to span the harbor effectively shuts down the southern end of Interstate 695 (Baltimore Beltway) corridor.

The disaster also severs Baltimore’s main shipping channel.

The Dali had set sail from the Dundalk Marine Terminal, located about two miles north of the bridge, using the 50-foot-deep Fort McHenry Channel.

Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, City Council President Nick Mosby and Councilwoman Phylicia Porter joined a hastily called news conference near the scene of the crash.

“This is a tragedy you could never imagine,” Scott said, calling for prayers for families affected by the tragedy and thanking first responders.

“It looks like something out of an action movie,” he added.

Scott said he had been in communication with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who promised federal help.

The 8,636-foot-long steel bridge carried more than 12 million vehicles last year, or about 33,000 a day, according to state transportation officials.

Opened in 1977, the Key Bridge is of unusual design, the second longest arch-shaped-continuous-truss bridge in the U.S.

Truss bridges have been out of favor in recent decades, considered more costly to build and maintain than suspension bridges.

Maryland’s longest bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, is a steel suspension structure.

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