Key Bridge Collapses into Patapsco River in Baltimore After Vessel Hits Support Column; State of Emergency Declared |

Key Bridge Collapses into Patapsco River in Baltimore After Vessel Hits Support Column; State of Emergency Declared

A container ship rammed into a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to snap and plunge into the river below.

via: The Baltimore Sun

At least seven cars were sent into the Patapsco River, launching a search-and-rescue operation and prompting Gov. Wes Moore to declare a state of emergency.

In a news conference just a few hours after the 1:20 a.m. collision, Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace said authorities are “still very much in an active search and rescue posture,” noting they are searching for “upwards of seven individuals” and that sonar has detected the presence of vehicles in the water.

There was no indication that the event was intentional, Wallace said.

Authorities have not determined the cause, but U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin told The Baltimore Sun in a phone interview that indications point to the vessel losing power, causing it to lose steering.

“What’s been indicated is the vessel lost power, and when you lose power you lose steering,” Cardin said. “But they’re doing a full investigation.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who was on his way to the scene, said the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate. He said it was “too early to know all the facts. There is certainly a good chance the ship lost power and drifted into the bridge.”

Asked about power problems at a later news conference, state Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said it was too early to talk about.

“This is a tragedy that you could never imagine … It looked like something out of an action movie,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at the first news conference.

Video from the incident shows the container ship, billowing smoke, colliding with the bridge support, quickly causing much of the structure to collapse. Just before the collision, the ship’s lights appear to turn on and off multiple times.

The ship had been under the operation of a pilot, as is required by Maryland law, to guide it through the port.

All vehicle traffic has been rerouted from the 1.6-mile steel bridge, which is part of Interstate 695, a major thoroughfare and one of Baltimore’s three toll crossings. The bridge carried more than 12.4 million commercial and passenger vehicles in 2023 — roughly 34,000 a day — according to a November report.

The Port of Baltimore was still processing trucks inside of its terminals. But vessel traffic into and out of the port is suspended, Wiedefeld said.

“We know that we have a long road ahead, not just in search-and-rescue, but in the fallout from this,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in the first news conference.

Priscilla Thompson, who lives on the water in Dundalk facing the Key Bridge, was awakened in the middle of the night by the horrible sound of crashing steel.

“I really thought it was an earthquake or something because it shook this house so bad,” she said. “It shook it — it really rattled it — for four or five seconds.”

“And then, it got real quiet,” she said.

Moore said in a statement that he has declared a state of emergency and will work to “quickly deploy federal resources.”

“We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone’s safety,” Moore said. “We will remain in close contact with federal, state, and local entities that are carrying out rescue efforts as we continue to assess and respond to this tragedy.”

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