2 Bodies Recovered, 4 Remain Missing After Bridge Collapse

by EditorK
Investigators begin efforts to find out how a cargo ship lost power before ramming into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing its collapse within seconds.

In an aerial view, the cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Md., on March 26, 2024 (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By Jackson Richman, Austin Alonzo and Beth Brelje

Two bodies have been recovered in search-and-recovery efforts following the March 26 collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, announced Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent of the Maryland State Police, on March 27.

The families of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, have been notified, according to Mr. Butler. Those two were with the company, Brawner Companies, doing maintenance on the bridge deck.

The bodies were found in the discovery of a pickup truck that was submerged approximately 25 feet below water in the Patapsco River in the area around the middle span of the bridge, Mr. Butler said.

Mr. Butler confirmed what State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told The Epoch Times earlier on March 27: the countries of origin of those presumed dead are Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Maryland has submitted an emergency federal relief funding request, according to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

In a March 27 interview with CNN, Mr. Buttigieg said receiving the request from Maryland’s state government is the first step toward applying federal funds for rebuilding efforts.

In the same interview, Mr. Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation’s federal highways team is already working on design and procurement for a new span of Interstate 695 over the Patapsco River.

“My intention is to get this first request processed immediately and start those dollars flowing even in these earliest days,” he said. “We do have resources to get to work right away.”

Mr. Buttigieg went on to say the federal government and local law enforcement agencies are working to find out what, if any, liability a private party may have for the Francis Scott Key Bridge disaster.

However, for now, the top priority is to get moving toward normalcy, he said.

Federal officials are not prepared to speculate on when the Port of Baltimore will be open again. But there is a financial urgency to open as soon as possible. The port is responsible for nearly $3.3 billion in personal wages and salaries, $2.6 billion in business revenue, and nearly $400 million in state and local tax revenue annually.

Access to the port was suddenly blocked March 26, when the container ship Dali, departing the port, struck a support tower of the Francis Scott Key Bridge around 1:30 a.m., causing it to collapse into the Patapsco River.

A total of eight contractors working on the bridge deck fell into the water; two were rescued. In addition to the two bodies that have been recovered, four others are presumed dead. Their bodies have not been recovered.

The U.S. Coast Guard continued its recovery efforts on March 27.

“Even as families come to term with that grief and even as those recovery operations continue, work is underway to investigate what happened and to restore the key transportation resources that were impacted,” said Mr. Buttigieg in a White House press briefing.

He noted there are two timelines for action: reopening the port and rebuilding the bridge.

“Reopening the port is a different matter from rebuilding the bridge. The port, that’s just a matter of clearing the channel. Still, no simple thing but I would expect that can happen on a much quicker timeline than the full reconstruction of the bridge,” Mr. Buttigieg said.

When pressed for a timeline of days, weeks, or months, he said he is asking those same questions and cannot say yet.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard will take the lead on removing bridge debris from the channel.

President Joe Biden, Mr. Buttigieg, and Army Corps of Engineers Lt. General Scott Spellmon had a phone call on Tuesday, while Mr. Spellmon was at the scene in Baltimore to assess the catastrophe. He is managing the mobilizing of equipment, analyzing underwater surveys, the stabilization of the Dali vessel, mitigating the threat of pollution, and the eventual removal of the Dali from the area.

The vessel is stable, Mr. Buttigieg said, but it still has over 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil onboard, plus 4,700 cargo containers, including 56 with hazardous materials. Two containers are missing after going overboard. Those did not contain hazardous, he said.

The Port of Baltimore handles between $100 million and $200 million worth of cargo a day.

Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.

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