Baltimore bridge collapse: Biden administration approves $60M for bridge costs

The investigation into the Baltimore bridge collapse enters into a new phase Thursday.

By6abc Digital Staff KFSN logo
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Baltimore collapse probe moves from recovery to salvage operation
Baltimore collapse probe moves from recovery to salvage operation

BALTIMORE -- The Biden administration approved $60 million in emergency relief funds for rebuilding Baltimore's collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge hours after the receiving the request from the state of Maryland, the White House said Thursday evening.

"The federal emergency funds we're releasing today will help Maryland begin urgent work, to be followed by further resources as recovery and rebuilding efforts progress," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "President Biden has been clear: the federal government will do everything it takes to help rebuild the bridge and get the Port of Baltimore back open."

Crews in Baltimore have started to remove the wreckage at the site of Tuesday's collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Investigators also plan to continue interviewing Dali crew members aboard the ship.

This, while we learn more about the six construction workers caught in the collapse. Two of the victims' bodies recovered Wednesday, and four are still missing and are others presumed dead.

Those construction workers were members of the community and had families who relied on them, according to Maryland officials.

As he was moving off of the bridge and literally saw the bridge fall right after he moved off.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D)

So far, the youngest victim we know of is 26 years old.

Crews were back out Thursday to recover those unaccounted for and to begin the process of reopening this busy port.

MORE | 10 other ships stuck in Port of Baltimore

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that was struck by a container ship in Baltimore, Md., on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that was struck by a container ship in Baltimore, Md., on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.
Maxaar Technologies via AP

The search for answers in Baltimore is happening both on and around cargo ship Dali.

"It's just utter devastation," said NTSB chairwoman, Jennifer Homendy.

How the collapse happened

Just hours before the Tuesday morning commute was to get underway, the crew of a massive cargo ship leaving Baltimore harbor lost propulsion and control of the vessel, causing it to crash into a support column of the Key Bridge, triggering a catastrophic collapse of the 1.6-mile long span and sending vehicles and people into the water, officials said.

The transportation disaster unfolded about 1:35 a.m., prompting a major emergency response from Baltimore police, firefighters and the U.S. Coast Guard as authorities estimated that up to 20 vehicles went into the water along with several workers who were part of a maintenance team fixing potholes on the span, officials said.

"I can tell you, our sonar has detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water," Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace said at a news conference early Tuesday.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said the depth of the water in the area where the crash occurred is about 50 feet.

NTSB releases new video as investigation into Baltimore bridge collapse continues

Investigators have reviewed the ship's data recorder to better understand the moments leading up to the fatal collision.

RELATED: Baltimore bridge collapse update: Investigators reveal timeline of events leading up to ship crash

It shows alarms ringing immediately after the ship's lights go out, followed by efforts to change course and then the mayday call. All happening within five minutes.

The 56 containers hold 764 tons of hazardous materials that include "mostly corrosives, flammables, and miscellaneous Class 9 hazardous materials, which would include lithium-ion batteries," Homendy said.

Some of the hazmat containers had been "breached," and there has been "sheen" seen on the waterway, which state and local authorities are aware of and investigating, according to officials.

Homendy said it wasn't known how many hazardous containers were in the water after the incident.

There were 23 people aboard Dali at the time of the collision, 21 crew members and two pilots, according to the NTSB chair.

During the briefing, Homedy said the data recorders they have access to are considered basic compared to a commercial plane.

The ship's voice data recorder only captured limited information, she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard provided the NTSB with six hours of data between midnight and 6 a.m. ET upon arrival.

Officials said on Wednesday that the quality of audio from the box "varies wildly" because of the high level of background noise, which will have to be filtered out to improve the audio quality.

They expect to recover 30 days of data from the data recorders, she said.

Addressing the collision, the NTSB said that current data points to a power failure, but they have not confirmed that or a possible reason for the likely power failure.

NTSB gives update on March 27, 2024, following Baltimore bridge collapse

4 victims remain in water

Still in the water are four of the six victims who officials say died after falling from the Key bridge when it collapsed.

Divers have recovered the bodies of two of the missing workers, identified as 35-year-old Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes and 26-year-old Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera. Both were pulled from a pickup truck Wednesday that was discovered submerged in the water.

RELATED: What we know about the missing workers after Baltimore bridge collapse as recovery efforts resume

"Divers located a red pickup truck submerged in approximately 25 feet of water. Divers recovered two victims of this tragedy, trapped within the vehicle," said Col. Roland Butler, with Maryland State Police.

Among the four still missing and presumed dead are Miguel Luna, from El Salvador, and Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, from Honduras.

Luna is a father of three and Sandoval is a father of two.

"Maynor and Miguel are just two stories, two specific examples of thousands and thousands of Baltimoreans that are making a contribution to this beautiful country," said Gustavo Torres, CASA executive director.

RELATED: Central American and Mexican families mourn victims of Baltimore bridge collapse

Miguel Luna (left) and Maynor Sandoval (right) are two construction workers who remain missing and presumed dead after the Baltimore bridge collapse.

Sandoval migrated from Honduras over 17 years ago, according to Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, an immigration and Latino advocacy-and-assistance organization.

He dreamed of starting a small business and brought joy and humor to his family, Torres told reporters on Wednesday.

Other workers who remain unaccounted for are believed to be from Mexico and Honduras.

Maryland officials credit the quick action of dispatchers and police to prevent more drivers from traveling on the bridge, saying they undoubtedly saved lives.

RELATED: Officials stopped traffic onto Baltimore's Key Bridge before collapse: 'These people are heroes'

Including one of the two surviving construction workers who told the governor he heard an officer telling him to move off the bridge, so he ran.

"As he was moving off of the bridge and literally saw the bridge fall right after he moved off," Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said.

The NTSB's full investigation could take over a year to complete, so we may not have clarity as to why the power went out for some time.

The next priority, officials say, is to reopen this port since it is the busiest port in the U.S. for cars and farm equipment.

Previous deficiencies found on cargo ship

Danish shipping company Maersk chartered the Dali cargo ship, a spokesperson for the company told ABC News in a statement.

"We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected. We can confirm that the container vessel 'DALI', operated by charter vessel company Synergy Group, is time chartered by Maersk and is carrying Maersk customers' cargo. No Maersk crew and personnel were onboard the vessel. We are closely following the investigations conducted by authorities and Synergy, and we will do our utmost to keep our customers informed," the Maersk spokesperson said.

The Dali cargo ship had two deficiencies since it was built in 2015, according to records from the Electronic Quality Shipping Information System (Equasis).

The most recent deficiency was given on June 27, 2023, during an inspection in the port of San Antonio, Chile. The deficiency was for "propulsion and auxiliary machinery" concerning gauges and thermometers, according to Equasis. The other deficiency was given in 2016 for "structural conditions" concerning a damaged hull "impairing seaworthiness."

The records show that the last inspection of the container ship was on Sept. 13, 2023, in New York.

Dramatic security video captured the vessel striking one of the main support columns holding up the center cantilevered section of the bridge, causing the span to break apart in several sections and sending twisted metal into the water onto the bow of the Dali as black smoke began to pour from the vessel.

Multiple vehicles plunged from the bridge at the time of the collapse, the Baltimore City Fire Department said.

Two of the construction workers who were on the bridge and survived, including one who ran from the bridge and the other who fell into the water and swam ashore, according to the latest internal Department of Homeland Security briefing obtained by ABC News.

Just minutes before the crash, the video showed traffic flowing on the bridge, but the traffic almost disappeared before impact.

After reviewing traffic cameras, Maryland transportation officials confirmed "no vehicles [were] transiting the bridge at the time of the incident," according to the latest internal Department of Homeland Security briefing obtained by ABC News.

The pilot who was at the controls of the ship "is currently undergoing post-accident Drug and Alcohol Testing," the briefing said.

The Dali "remains impaled in the bridge," the document said, adding that several shipping containers with undisclosed cargo fell into the water. There is hull damage above the water line of the vessel, but the ship is maintaining watertight integrity," according to the document.

Had the crash occurred a few hours later at the height of the morning commute the bridge would have likely been packed with commuters. The bridge is part of the heavily traveled Interstate 695 linking Baltimore to Washington, D.C. An estimated 11.5 million vehicles cross the bridge annually, or about 30,000 per day, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The bridge, which opened on March 23, 1977, had just celebrated its 47th anniversary.

The crash shut down the seaport, which serves more than 50 ocean carrier companies whose vessels make about 1,800 annual visits to the port, according to state officials.

ABC News contributed to this report.