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6 presumed dead after Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse

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Six construction workers are presumed dead after the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed early Tuesday when a support column was hit by a large container ship that had lost power. Search and rescue operations were suspended at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, as officials transitioned to recovery efforts.

Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath told reporters, confirming that the length of time the workers have been missing, combined with the cold temperature of the water, made rescue unlikely: “At this point, we do not believe we are going to find any of these individuals still alive.”  Col. Roland Butler Jr. and Maryland State Police said conditions in the water, including changing currents, low visibility and sharp metal objects, made it dangerous for divers and first responders.  Divers were to begin recovery operations at 6 a.m. ET Wednesday, Butler Jr. said, adding that officials didn’t know where the victims are located.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said in a mid-morning press conference that two other people were rescued from the water, and all eight people were part of a construction crew that was filling potholes on the bridge at the time, employed by local company Brawner Builders. According to news outlets, one of the rescued workers was unhurt, and the other was treated at the University of Maryland Medical Center and has been discharged.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said during a news conference Tuesday that a preliminary investigation pointed to the cause of the crash being “an accident …We haven’t seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack.” Moore said the ship’s crew issued a “mayday” before crashing into the bridge as they confirmed the ship lost power, noting the warning prevented traffic from flowing onto the bridge: “we’re thankful that between the mayday and collapse that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge.”

The MarineTraffic website has identified the involved vessel as the Singapore-flagged cargo ship Dali operated by charter vessel company Synergy Marine Group and chartered by Maersk, carrying Maersk customers’ cargo, the companies said.  The ship was en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka, when the crash occurred. According to a statement from Synergy, there were 22 crew members, including two pilots, aboard the ship, with all crew members Indian nationals. Synergy said it had activated its incident response team and is cooperating with state and federal officials.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, opened in 1977, spans the Patapsco River- a key waterway that serves with the Port of Baltimore as a hub for East Coast shipping. The 1.6-mile span was used by some 31,000 people per day and carried 11.5 million vehicles annually. The Maryland Transportation Authority said all lanes were closed in both directions on I-695, with traffic being detoured to I-95 and I-895. All ship traffic at the port, which is the second-largest seaport in the mid-Atlantic region, has been halted.

Editorial credit: Alexander Briggs / Shutterstock.com

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