Construction Crew Caught on Collapsing Baltimore Bridge Presumed Dead

Authorities are ending a search-and-rescue mission for six contractors who they believe were plunged into the icy cold waters of the Patapsco River early Tuesday morning when a container ship lost power and slammed into a pillar supporting Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.“Based on the length of time that we have gone in this search

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Authorities are ending a search-and-rescue mission for six contractors who they believe were plunged into the icy cold waters of the Patapsco River early Tuesday morning when a container ship lost power and slammed into a pillar supporting Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

“Based on the length of time that we have gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we have put into it, the water temperature, at this point we do not believe that we’re going to find any of these individuals still alive,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said at a press conference Tuesday evening.

He added that the decision was simply an administrative one meant to allow the agency more freedom in tackling the unique challenges presented by cold weather, a rapidly approaching storm, and debris-laden waters with structures that could collapse at any moment.

“The coast guard is not going away. None of our partners is going away,” Gilreath added. “But we’re just going to transition to a different phase.”

The six contract workers caught on the bridge when it collapsed were fixing potholes on the span—which is used by more than 31,srcsrcsrc vehicles a day. Two others were rescued from the water soon after the shocking incident occurred, including one who was hospitalized with serious injuries but was released soon after, according to Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace.

There are also a number of vehicles strewn throughout the river that need to be searched—including a tractor-trailer—and while authorities do not believe that they contained any other people beside the six construction workers, Maryland State Police Superintendent Roland Butler admitted that they weren’t ruling out the discovery of more bodies.

“I think we all would have to understand, yes, that’s a distinct possibility. As unfortunate as it may be, that’s a distinct possibility. However we don’t have any information to support that at this point,” he said at Tuesday’s press conference.

A report in the Baltimore Banner suggested that the construction workers now presumed dead—employees of a company called Brawner Builders—were all men in their 3srcs and 4srcs from south and central America, who came to the United States in search of a better life.

Jesus Campos, an employee of Brawner Builders, told the Baltimore Banner that the missing workers were men in their 3srcs and 4srcs from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. He said they each came to Maryland in search of a better life for their spouses and children.

“They are all hard-working, humble men,” Jesus Campos, another employee at the firm, added.

Pilots of the cargo ship, named Dali, reported a “mayday” call immediately after losing power, allowing local authorities to largely clear the bridge from through-traffic before it collapsed. The call is widely credited with saving what would likely have been hundreds of lives.

A recording captured by Broadcastify of the ship’s final transmissions captured the chaotic seconds before impact.

“I need one of you guys on the south side, one of you guys on the north side, hold all traffic on the Key Bridge,” an unnamed person says on the recording. “There’s a ship approaching that just lost their steering, so until we get that under control, we’ve got to stop all traffic.”

Clay Diamond, the head of the American Pilots’ Association, a trade organization for ship pilots, told the Associated Press the ship’s captain also ordered the crew to slam the rudder hard toward the ship’s port side and dropped its port anchor in a desperate bid to slow the vessel.

Less than two minutes later, the bridge had fallen.

“The whole bridge just fell down,” someone on the recording exclaims. “Start, start whoever … everybody. The whole bridge just collapsed.”

Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said immediately following the collision that there was “absolutely no indication” the incident was anything other than a tragic accident.

President Joe Biden addressed the collapse Tuesday afternoon, fondly remembering his own trips across the span as he traveled between his native Delaware and Washington, D.C., and telling reporters that he intended to secure federal funding to pay for the entire repair effort.

“It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge,” he said from the White House. “I expect the Congress to support my effort—this is going to take some time.”

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