Key Bridge collapses into Patapsco River in Baltimore after vessel hits support column; state of emergency declared

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed early on Tuesday morning, after a container vessel struck a support column. At least seven cars were sent into the Patapsco River. This prompted a rescue and search operation, which led to Gov. Wes Moore declared a state-of-emergency.

James Wallace, Chief of the Baltimore Fire Department, spoke at a press conference on Tuesday morning, only a few short hours after the incident. He said that authorities were “still in an active search-and-rescue posture,” and they were searching for “up to seven individuals.” Sonar had detected vehicles in the water. Wallace stated that there is no evidence to suggest the incident was deliberate.

“This is something you would never have imagined… it looked like a scene from an action film,” said Mayor Brandon Scott.

The video shows that the container ship collided with a beam of support and collapsed the bridge. The ship’s lights appeared to be on and off repeatedly just before the collision.

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Maryland law requires that the ship be operated by a licensed pilot.

The 1.6-mile steel span that is part Interstate 695 has been closed to all traffic.

In a press conference, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. stated that “we know we have a very long road ahead of us, not only in terms of search and rescue, but also in terms the fallout.”

Priscilla Thomson, who lives in Dundalk on the water facing the Key Bridge was woken up in the middle night by the terrible sound of crashing metal.

She said, “I thought it was a real earthquake because it really shook the house.” It rattled the house for about four to five seconds.

She said, “And then it became very quiet.”

Moore stated in a press release that he had declared a state-of-emergency and would “quickly mobilize federal resources.”

Moore stated in a statement that “we are grateful for the brave men who are rescuing those involved and we pray for their safety.” We will continue to work closely with the federal, state and local agencies that are coordinating rescue efforts.

Matthew West, a U.S. Coast Guard petty officer first class, said that the 948 foot cargo ship Dali flying the Singapore flag struck the bridge around 1:20 in the morning.

Four response boats and a helicopter have been deployed by the Coast Guard to assist in the search-and-rescue mission. A number of police helicopters also circled the area on Tuesday morning.

Sonar and drones are used by authorities. Wallace says that divers have had to contend with the water temperature, darkness and tides in their efforts.

Vessel Finder is a website that tracks ships. According to the site, it was built in 2015. It arrived from Norfolk, Virginia. MarineTraffic (another tracking website) reports that the ship left Baltimore at 1:00 am.

According to Dali’s managers and owners, the cause of the accident is still unknown. The ship was carrying 22 Indian crewmembers, including two pilots. All have been “accounted for” and no injuries were reported.

The ship’s manager at Synergy Maritime Group said there was no pollution. Wallace said that authorities have not confirmed whether any fuel has spilled in the water, but there was an odor of diesel fuel.

At 4 a.m., the National Data Buoy Center reported that water temperatures were 49 degrees in this area of Patapsco. The air temperature in the area was 41 degrees and there were light winds.

Chadonne Grant said that several patients were admitted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, in Baltimore. She did not know the number — “not many” — but she said that they were transported by helicopter around 2:30 or 3 am.

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, said on X (formerly Twitter) that he had been in touch with Moore and Scott, and offered “support from the U.S. Department of Transportation following the vessel hit and collapse of Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

Maryland Department of Emergency Management is on site and working with the Governor’s Office, State Police and Traffic Authority to respond to the collapse of the bridge. The agency spokesperson Travis Brown stated that the department’s emergency operation center has been upgraded to advanced status and that the joint state operations center is in full swing.

Maryland Transportation Authority posted on Facebook that the I-895 and Interstate 95 tunnels offer an alternative way to cross the harbor. The authority stated that vehicles transporting hazardous material are not allowed to travel through tunnels.

In a statement sent to The Baltimore Sun, a White House official stated that “there are no indications of any nefarious intentions.”

The statement stated, “Our hearts go to the families of the people who are still missing due to this horrible incident.”

The Key Bridge is named after the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and opened in March 1977. It cost approximately $110 million to build. The bridge is also one of three toll crossings on the Baltimore Harbor.

According to a Maryland government report released in November, the bridge will carry more than 12,4 million commercial and passengers vehicles by 2023 – or roughly 34,000 per day.

Lupe Lucas, 50, and her son, who was also there, stood at the edge of the water in Dundalk on Tuesday morning, before dawn. They were looking out over the area that the Key Bridge used to span.

A section of the bridge was still visible on the top of the ship, but the center had vanished.

She said, “When the sun comes up and nothing is there, it’s going be heartbreaking for many people.”