Home » Barges with Cranes Headed to US Bridge Collapse Site

Barges with Cranes Headed to US Bridge Collapse Site


Massive barges carrying cranes headed Thursday to the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore to start the difficult work of pulling twisted steel girders and large chunks of concrete out of the water where the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after a cargo ship slammed into it earlier this week.

Until it is removed, the debris will keep freighters from sailing in and out of the vital port, one of the United States’ largest, and prevent divers from searching for the remains of four construction workers who plummeted from the bridge.

The bodies of two other victims were recovered Wednesday before authorities called off the search because it was considered too dangerous in the murky waters of the Patapsco River.

The Sri Lanka-bound Dali cargo ship lost power in the early morning darkness on Tuesday and crashed into a bridge support column, quickly plunging some of the bridge’s steel support beams onto the bow of the freighter and the remainder into the water.

It was not immediately clear when the barges with cranes would arrive on the scene, but experts say it could be weeks before the deep-water shipping channel is cleared and the city’s port reopened. Building a new bridge is expected to take more than a year, even as President Joe Biden says he wants to move as quickly as possible and have the federal government pay for it.

"We're now moving from a recovery mode to a salvage operation,” Colonel Roland Butler, Maryland State Police superintendent, told reporters at a Wednesday news conference. “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.”

"We have exhausted all search efforts in the areas around this wreckage, and based on sonar scans, we firmly believe that the [workers’] vehicles are encased in the superstructure and concrete that we tragically saw come down," Butler said.

Butler asked for patience, warning that "there's no definitive timeline" for pulling the parts of the bridge structure from the river.

National Transportation Safety Board officials boarded the freighter to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to interview the captain and other crew members.

Federal and state officials say the crash was an accident, with no evidence of terrorism or sabotage. But why the freighter lost power remains a mystery.

The six victims, part of a construction crew fixing potholes on the bridge, were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Butler said. Two other workers who plunged into the river were rescued.

The 47-year-old, 2.5-kilometer-long Francis Scott Key Bridge was a major link in the interstate highway that circles the city of Baltimore. Biden said 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge on a typical day.

The bridge was named after Francis Scott Key, writer of "The Star-Spangled Banner," a poem later set to music to eventually become the U.S. national anthem.

Key was inspired to write the poem in 1814 after witnessing the British bombardment of a major U.S. military fort in Baltimore during a war that began in 1812.

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