2 bodies in Baltimore bridge collapse recovered; 4 others remain missing: Live updates

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Baltimore bridge collapse for Wednesday, March 27. For the latest news, view our live updates file for Thursday, March 28.

BALTIMORE − The bodies of two of the six missing construction workers from the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse were recovered Wednesday, Maryland authorities said at an afternoon news conference.

Maryland state police Superintendent Roland Butler Jr. said divers found the two victims trapped in a red pickup truck a little before 10 a.m. in about 25 feet of water around the bridge's middle span. They were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk, Maryland.

All six workers, who went missing after a cargo ship struck the bridge and sent it crumpling into the frigid Patapsco River early Tuesday, were presumed dead when the search-and-rescue mission trying to save them was called off in the evening. Two other workers were rescued Tuesday.

Even though four are still missing, Butler said the efforts will now transition from recovery to a salvage operation. The workers were on break at the time of the collapse and had been sitting in their trucks to warm up when the ship smashed into the bridge.

“Because of the superstructure surrounding what we believe are the vehicles, and the amount of concrete and debris, divers are no longer able to safely navigate or operate around that,'' Butler said. "We firmly believe the vehicles are encased in the superstructure and concrete that we tragically saw come down.’’

He said the six workers all hailed from Latin American countries − Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras − and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore addressed their families in Spanish at the news conference, telling them, "We're with you, now and always.''

The Dali, a Singapore-flagged cargo vessel, lost power early Tuesday before colliding with a support column of the bridge, the second-longest continuous truss bridge span in the world, officials said. Though a "mayday" gave authorities on the ground time to halt traffic, eight construction workers on the bridge plunged into the river when the ship struck.


∎ Vice Admiral Peter Gautier, Deputy Commandant for Operations for the U.S. Coast Guard, said the Dali ship was carrying 4,700 cargo containers, including 56 with hazardous materials. Two containers fell in the river, Gautier said, but added, "The ones that are in the water do not contain hazardous materials." He also said the ones aboard do not present a threat to the public.

∎ The Maryland Transportation Authority told USA TODAY there were multiple vehicles on the bridge at the time of the collision and that it is believed they all belonged to the construction workers.

∎ Scattered showers across Maryland and much of the Northeast on Wednesday may hamper the ongoing recovery effort, according to the National Weather Service. The potential rain is anticipated to worsen on Thursday as a large storm system moves over the area following a cold front. Officials have cited the temperature of the water as a major issue complicating divers' ability to search the Patapsco River.

∎ Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board, which has assumed the probe of the collision, boarded the Dali overnight Tuesday and again Wednesday, the agency said via e-mail, adding, "NTSB has the data from the voyage data recorder in the NTSB lab."

∎ The Maryland Transportation Authority told commuters to expect delays while taking alternative routes following the destruction of the bridge, a crossing that carries 11.3 million vehicles annually and is a vital artery for East Coast shipping.

Bridge was in 'satisfactory condition' NTSB head says

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a night news conference that the bridge, built in 1976, was last inspected in May of last year.

“This bridge was in satisfactory condition,’’ she said.

Homendy also reiterated Gautier’s earlier information that the ship was carrying 56 containers with hazardous material, which she said added up to 764 tons. She described the contents as “mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous.’’

Homendy said some of those hazmat containers were breached and investigators noticed sheen on the water, but she did not elaborate beyond that other than to say federal, state and local authorities would address the matter.

Ship’s data recorder reveals preliminary timeline of collapse

During Wednesday night's news conference, NTSB investigator Marcel Muise detailed a preliminary timeline of the Key Bridge collapse, citing the voice data recorder from the ship. At around 1:24 a.m., "numerous audible alarms" were recorded on the ship's voice data recorder, according to Muise.

Shortly after, the ship's pilot made a general high-frequency radio call for "tugs in the vicinity," Muise said. Tugs help vessels leave docks and ports, and get into the main ship channel, according to Homendy. Before the ship struck the bridge, it had no tugs.

At about 1:27 a.m., the pilot ordered the ship’s port anchor to be dropped and "ordered additional steering commands," Muise said. The pilot then reported the ship had lost all power and was approaching the bridge.

At the time, two units from the Maryland Transportation Authority were already on the scene due to construction on the bridge and ordered for traffic to be closed, according to Muise. The Maryland Transportation Authority shut down all lanes.

Muise said the ship's audio data recorder captured “sounds consistent with the collision of the bridge" at about 1:29 a.m. During that time, the bridge's lights also went out.

Losing shipping through Port of Baltimore a 'global crisis'

Moore said the bridge collapse that’s blocking shipping into and out of the Port of Baltimore is “not just a Maryland crisis,’’ but a “global crisis.’’

The governor pointed out the port handles more cars and farm equipment than any such facility in the nation, adding that the $80 billion in foreign cargo that transited through the port last year was also tops in the country.

Steven Keats, vice president and partner in the global logistics firm Kestrel Liner Agencies, said the company has cargo it can’t get out of the terminal in Baltimore and some more coming from England that will instead be rerouted to New York and Norfolk, Virginia. And there are other issues as well.

“This gets really complicated legally with the cargo owners and the ship owners,” Keats said. “They’re all stuck here and the terminal is going to charge for storage of the cargo in port.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there are about a dozen ships on the port that can’t get out, a difficult predicament considering no timeframe has been established for removing the bridge remnants and reopening the shipping channel.

“They’re going to be stuck there for a long time,” Keats said.

Contributing: Dinah Pulver

Crew has not left the ship, Coast Guard says

The crew that was aboard the Dali when it crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge has not left the vessel, U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Cynthia Oldham told USA TODAY. On Wednesday, Homendy said the crew included twenty-three people, including two pilots.

Oldham said they were not injured in the collision and are providing information about the vessel that's crucial to the recovery process and eventually getting the ship to shore. She added that they are monitoring engineering spaces and will "appropriately respond to any emergency on board." It's unclear whether the pilots, local mariners with experience in the waterway, are still on the ship with the crew.

"There's no reason to ... medically evacuate anybody, and then for engineering purposes, to have a presence on the ship, the crew is staying aboard," Oldham said.

The 985-foot-long vessel was chartered by the major shipping company Maersk and was carrying its cargo, according to a statement from the company. The ship is operated by charter vessel company Synergy Group and is owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Pte. The Dali was scheduled to arrive next month in Sri Lanka.

Getting ship, debris out of water will be a big challenge, experts say

Emergency management experts told USA TODAY that though there are many questions that require answers before the vessel and debris can be removed from the river, it's clear that it will be a major challenge for authorities.

Natalie Simpson, an operations management professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said much of the recovery process will likely be on hold while divers search for the bodies of the missing construction workers and assess the debris, a process complicated by the river's strong tide.

"You're looking at a very dangerous situation to work in right now," she said, adding that it will likely be several days before authorities can work on removing the ship.

Simpson said experts will have to inspect the ship, especially its hull, which seems to have been damaged in the crash. If it can be stabilized, tugboats can possibly lug the ship to shore. However, Simpson said this seems unlikely considering the intensity of the crash. If the ship can't be stabilized, authorities will have to summon specialized equipment – floating cranes, for example – to remove freight containers and the chunks of steel on the bow.

"If the news that comes up out of the water is the absolute best it could possibly be, I say it will take a couple of weeks before they can clear it," she said. "I would be surprised if it took several months just to clear the channel."

Joseph Barbera, an associate professor at George Washington University whose research focuses on emergency and risk management, largely agreed with Simpson and emphasized that the degree of the damage will determine the process of removing the ship.

“This is a very complex operation," he said.

Two victims in the Baltimore bridge collapse identified

A Baltimore nonprofit identified a father of three from El Salvador as one of the six construction workers who are believed to be dead following the bridge collapse.

In a news release, CASA said Miguel Luna, who has lived in Maryland for over 19 years, didn’t return home after he left for work on Monday around 6:30 p.m. He was a longtime member of CASA, a day worker center that provides assistance for workers and immigrant families.

“Providing humanitarian support during this crisis is the priority, as families navigate this tragedy and seek answers about their missing loved ones,” Gustavo Torres, CASA’s executive director, said in a statement. “The entire Baltimore region and CASA family is lamenting this tragedy.”

Maynor Nasir Suazo Sandoval, a Honduran national who arrived in the U.S. about two decades ago, is also among the missing, according to Wilson Paz, director-general of the protection of Honduran migrants. Honduran officials made contact with Suazo Sandoval's brother in Honduras and another sibling in the U.S.

In a Wednesday morning press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said three Mexicans were involved in the bridge collapse, according to the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One Mexican national was rescued and treated for his injuries, while two others remain missing.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed two Guatemalan nationals, ages 26 and 35, went missing while working on the bridge but did not release their names.

Officials believe there were eight workers on the bridge when it collapsed; two were rescued. They worked for Brawner Builders, a Maryland-based construction firm that is contracted by the Maryland Transportation Authority and several public agencies in the Baltimore area. The company has eight building inspection units, according to its website.

Eduardo Cuevas

Senator drafts emergency bill to help workers impacted by port closure

Maryland State Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Democrat, said he and others are drafting an emergency income-replacement bill to help the thousands of people who will be financially affected by the indefinite closure of the Port of Baltimore.

"The human cost of lives lost yesterday is overwhelming and tragic,” Ferguson said. “The economic and stability loss to the thousands impacted in the days ahead cannot be understated.”

The senator said more than 15,000 people, including dock workers, small business owners and laborers, rely on the daily operations of the major port. House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger, who represents South Baltimore, said he is assisting in the draft.

"Yesterday I spent hours talking to labor leaders, dock workers, small business owners and large port industry leaders who all had the exact same message: 'We must unlock the channel to the Port of Baltimore,'" Ferguson said. "They're right. And until we do, there is enormous cost to families."

National Transportation Safety Board probing ship's loss of power

The NTSB is leading the investigation of the bridge collapse and will examine reports of the massive cargo ship losing power a few minutes before striking the bridge.

Homendy said the investigation will be done in support with the U.S. Coast Guard. Investigators will examine vessel operations and safety records, along with the vessel's owner and operator, Homendy said.

The investigation will also review whether there were "major deficiencies" on the ship, according to Homendy. The agency is aware of the reported power issues on the cargo ship, which investigations will need to "verify," Homendy said.

A U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY that the ship's power loss could be related to mechanical failure. The Dali had been involved in at least one accident prior to Tuesday's crash.

While the 9-year-old container ship had passed previous inspections, officials discovered a deficiency with its "propulsion and auxiliary machinery (gauges, thermometers, etc)" during an inspection in June at the Port of San Antonio in Chile, according to the Tokyo MOU, an intergovernmental maritime authority in the Asia-Pacific region.

Sources familiar with the investigation told The Wall Street Journal that investigators will examine whether contaminated fuel may have caused the ship's power issues.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Baltimore bridge collapse: 2 bodies recovered, 4 others missing