Search resuming for 6 missing and presumed dead after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Search resuming for 6 missing and presumed dead after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

BALTIMORE — The search was to resume this morning for six people missing and presumed dead in the wake of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. It crumbled early Tuesday after a support column was hit by a large container ship that had lost power, sending people and vehicles into the Patapsco River, authorities said.

Two people were rescued from the water Tuesday.

All eight people were part of a construction crew that was filling potholes on the bridge at the time, Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath of the U.S. Coast Guard said at a news conference Tuesday evening. Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Security Board, said Tuesday afternoon that the workers were employed by a local company, Brawner Builders. 

One of the rescued workers was unhurt. The other was treated at the University of Maryland Medical Center and has been discharged, CBS News Baltimore reported. 

Search and rescue operations were suspended at 7:30 p.m. ET as officials transitioned to recovery efforts.

“Based on the length of time that we’ve gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we’ve put into it, the water temperature — that at this point we do not believe that we’re going to find any of these individuals still alive,” Gilreath said.

Search resuming for 6 missing and presumed dead after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Col. Roland Butler Jr., with 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. today, Butler Jr. said, adding that officials didn’t know where the victims are located.

The nonprofit organization CASA identified one of the missing workers as Miguel Luna, from El Salvador. “He is a husband, a father of three, and has called Maryland his home for over 19 years,” CASA executive director Gustavo Torres said in a statement Tuesday night.

Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said two of the missing workers were from that country. One was 26 years old and the other was 35 years old, according to the ministry. The state’s consul general was on site assisting the affected families.

Honduras’ Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio García told The Associated Press a Honduran citizen, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, was missing. García said he’d been in contact with Suazo’s family.  

The Mexican Embassy in Washington said there were Mexicans among the six as well.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at an earlier news conference Tuesday afternoon, “There is not a single resource we will hold off on deploying … to make sure that this search and rescue operation is carried out to its fullest intent.”

“Our hearts are with the families and loved ones of the victims,” Moore said in a Tuesday evening statement after the rescue efforts were called off. “We will continue to work in partnership with leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure that we can provide all those affected with the closure they deserve.”

Search resuming for 6 missing and presumed dead after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Maryland Democratic Rep. David Trone told CBS News recovery efforts will likely be conducted with underwater drones. He said the drones will be able to locate the vehicles and that authorities have identified one in particular that likely has casualties.

Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, told The Associated Press the construction crew was working in the middle of the bridge’s span when the crash happened. 

“This was so completely unforeseen,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know what else to say.”

“We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers,” he added. “But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse.”

Moore declared a state of emergency shortly after the collapse, saying in a statement that “we are working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration. We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone’s safety.”

The ship — the Singapore-flagged Dali — was operated by charter vessel company Synergy Marine Group and was chartered by Maersk, carrying Maersk customers’ cargo, the companies said. 

There were 22 crew members, including two pilots, aboard the ship, according to a statement from Synergy. All 22 are Indian nationals. Synergy said it had activated its incident response team and is cooperating with state and federal officials. Homendy said the NTSB is communicating with Singaporean officials as part of their investigation. 

Wiedefeld said that FBI was on the scene “to see if there was any terrorism connection, which there is not.” 

Search resuming for 6 missing and presumed dead after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

In the wake of the bridge collapse, Carnival Cruise Line said today it is moving its homeporting from Baltimore, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia.

William DelBagno, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, said at a subsequent news conference that “there is no specific or credible information to suggest that there are ties to terrorism in this incident.” 

An FBI official told CBS News FBI dive teams had joined in the search for the missing and that the FBI underwater search and evidence response team was in the water. The FBI has also sent a victim specialist to assist families impacted by the incident. 

The NTSB said Tuesday morning that it had dispatched a 24-person team to investigate the incident. At the time, the team was waiting to board the ship to enable search and rescue operations to continue, and it hoped to access recordings from the ship Tuesday night or Wednesday, Homendy said.  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, said it would provide some 1,100 specialists to help in the recovery. 

“In accordance with USACE’s federal authorities, USACE will lead the effort to clear the Federal channel as part of the larger interagency recovery effort,” the USACE said. “Together with local, state, and federal partners, they are working closely to determine the key actions required to remove the fallen bridge.”

Ship had a “power issue” before the collision

Officials have confirmed that the ship lost power right before the collision. Moore said the crew notified authorities of a “power issue.” 

Two U.S. officials told CBS News multiple alarms rang out on the ship, alerting pilots and crew to an issue on board. The crew ran several system tests to attempt to remedy the loss of propulsion from the motor, but the tests proved unsuccessful. At that point, the pilot alerted the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Authority. 

Roughly two minutes elapsed between when the ship’s pilot notified state authorities of an issue on board and when the bridge collapsed, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski said.

Officials said in a news conference that the call allowed officials to order a mayday and stop traffic onto the bridge.

Moore said that the decision to stop traffic onto the bridge “saved lives last night.” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told CBS News the mayday call “saved many lives” and allowed emergency personnel to get to the scene quickly.  

Officials did not clarify how many vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse. Infrared video showed that vehicles did enter the water, but it’s not clear if those vehicles had occupants. Multiple vehicles remained in the river as of mid-morning. 

Homendy said it was too early in the investigation to clarify an exact timeline of events for the accident. 

The ship’s crew made an effort to deploy the anchor, though it remains unclear how much progress was made, multiple officials said.

“If it lost steering and power, then basically it’s a dead ship just being carried by the current or its own momentum,” James Mercante, the president of the New York Board of Pilot Commissioners, told CBS News.

He said video shows a “big, big puff of black, real dark black smoke” which might indicate that the vessel’s power was “restored at the last minute” and that the pilot was “attempting to make an emergency maneuver” to prevent the collision. However, it would be difficult to stop the 900-foot-long vessel. 

“It would take quite a while — probably the length of five [or] six football fields — to bring that ship to a stop, even after dropping the anchors, because of its power and momentum. This is a behemoth,” Mercante said. 

“An unthinkable tragedy”

The Baltimore mayor headed to the scene and told reporters at a morning briefing that the collapse was “an unthinkable tragedy.”

“We have to first and foremost pray for all of those who are impacted, those families, pray for our first responders and thank them,” Scott said.

A witness told CBS News Baltimore the sound of the collapse was massive, shaking his home. 

“Earthquake — sounded like a big bash of thunder,” the resident said. “And then just like I said it felt like an earthquake, the whole house vibrated. Like my house was falling down.”

The man said he never thought in his “wildest dreams” he would see something like this happen. 

Shipping in and out of the Port of Baltimore has been halted. Moore said that it was too early to estimate how long it would take to rebuild the bridge or for shipping to resume. 

“Our exclusive focus is on saving lives. Our exclusive focus is on search and rescue,” he said. 

Location of the Key Bridge in Baltimore

The Francis Scott Key Bridge spans the Patapsco River, a key waterway that serves with the Port of Baltimore as a hub for East Coast shipping. 

CBS News Baltimore reports that 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. Traffic was being detoured to I-95 and I-895.

All ship traffic at the port, the second-largest seaport in the mid-Atlantic region, has been halted. According to Census data, the Port of Baltimore handled more than $80 billion in imports and exports in 2023, marking a 20-year record.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the port is going to lose some $15 million per day in economic activity due to its closure. The newspaper cites Daraius Irani, chief economist at the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, as coming up with that estimate.

According to a CBS News report, the port directly supports 15,300 jobs, while another 140,000 in the area are related to port activities. The jobs provide a combined $3.3 billion in personal income.

The bridge, which opened in 1977, is named after the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on social media that he’s “spoken with Governor Moore and Mayor Scott to offer USDOT’s support following the vessel strike and collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge. Rescue efforts remain underway and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.”


—Pat Milton, Nicole Sganga and other CBS News and CBS News Baltimore staff members contributed reporting.