Here is the Timeline of Key Bridge Collapse

March 28, 2024
NTSB crews used the ship’s voyage data recorder to piece together a timeline

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have unveiled new details about the events leading up to the cargo ship, Dali, that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, including the pilot’s urgent call for assistance and authorities’ efforts to clear people off the bridge.

The first sign of distress came just under three minutes before the crash when the cargo ship’s pilot called over the radio requesting any tugboats in the area to respond to the vessel, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a statement.

Within a minute, police officers on either end of the bridge were ordered to stop traffic crossing the bridge, said Marcel Muise, the NTSB investigator in charge of the collapse inquiry, in a statement.

Investigators had their first full day at the scene on Wednesday and witnessed the “utter devastation” of the mangled bridge, parts of which are still draped over the ship’s bow, Homendy said.

“When I look at something like that, I am thinking not about the container ships that are coming through, not about traffic getting back up and running on the bridge. I’m thinking about the families who’ve lost loved ones,” Homendy said.

NTSB crews used the ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR), to piece together a rough timeline of events leading up to the collision.

Here’s the NTSB’s timeline in hours, minutes, and seconds:

  • Approximately 12:39 a.m.: The ship departed from Seagirt Marine Terminal.
  • By 1:07:00 a.m.: The ship had entered the Fort McHenry Channel.
  • 1:24:59 a.m.: Numerous audible alarms were recorded on the ship’s bridge audio. At about the same time, the VDR stopped recording ship system data but was able to continue recording audio using a different power source.
  • 1:26:02 a.m.: The VDR resumed recording ship system data. During this time, steering commands and orders regarding the rudder were captured on audio.
  • 1:26:39 a.m.: The ship’s pilot made a general very high frequency (VHF) radio call for tugboats in the vicinity to assist the vessel. Around this time, the pilot association dispatcher contacted the Maryland Transportation Authority duty officer regarding the blackout, according to transit authority data.
  • Around 1:27:04 a.m.: The pilot ordered that the ship’s port anchor be dropped and issued additional steering commands.
  • Around 1:27:25 a.m.: The pilot issued a radio call over the VHF radio, reporting that the vessel had lost all power and was approaching the bridge. Around this time, the transit authority duty officer radioed two of its units — one on each side of the bridge — that were already on scene and ordered them to close traffic on the bridge. All lanes were then shut down.
  • Around 1:29 a.m.: The ship’s speed over ground was recorded at just under 8 miles per hour. From this moment until approximately 1:29:33, the VDR audio recorded sounds consistent with the collision with the bridge. Additionally, MDTA dash cameras show the bridge lights extinguishing.
  • 1:29:39 a.m.: The pilot radioed the U.S. Coast Guard to report the bridge was down.

There were no issues reported with the ship prior to its arrival in Baltimore, officials said Wednesday. “We were informed that they were going to conduct routine engine maintenance on it while it was in port. And that’s the only thing we were informed about the vessel in that regard,” said Shannon Gilreath, Coast Guard rear admiral, in a statement.

As the investigation continues, NTSB and debris salvage crews face challenging and dangerous conditions, including cold and rainy weather, slick surfaces and unstable pieces of wreckage, NTSB and fire officials said.

“Naturally, we’re cognizant of the fact that there are hazardous materials aboard the vessel itself,” said James Wallace, Baltimore City Fire chief, in a statement.

Among the ship’s cargo, a senior NTSB hazmat investigator has identified 56 containers of hazardous material – 764 tons – mostly corrosives and flammables, as well as some lithium-ion batteries, the agency said.

Earlier, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Gautier said there is no hazmat threat to the public. Of the ship’s 4,700 cargo containers, only two are missing overboard and neither contains hazardous materials, he said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the destruction of the bridge and the resulting closure of the port will have major repercussions on the city’s economy and the country’s supply chain. The Baltimore port is the largest in the US for autos and light trucks, handling a record 850,000 vehicles last year.

Recovery Operations Halted

Eight construction workers were believed to be mending potholes on the bridge when it fell, according to officials. Two survived but crews searched the frigid waters throughout the day Wednesday for the remaining six, who were all presumed dead.

Two of the workers, a 35-year-old and a 26-year-old, were found trapped underwater in a red truck Wednesday. They were identified by authorities as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, from Mexico, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, from Guatemala. Both lived in the Baltimore area.

Search efforts to recover the bodies of the remaining four men were paused later Wednesday until search conditions could be made safer for divers, said Butler, the state police superintendent.

Among the other victims was Miguel Luna, a father of three, and Maynor Suazo, a father and entrepreneur.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala said another Guatemalan was also unaccounted for: a 35-year-old from Camotán, Chiquimula. Another of the missing is also a Mexican national, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said.

Bridge was Struck Before – and Survived

Tuesday morning was not the first time a vessel had slammed into the Key Bridge. Four decades ago, another container ship that also lost power hit the bridge and no damage was reported.

The dramatic difference in outcomes between the two accidents is an example of the increase in shipping vessel size, as well as the dangers that increase causes.

Bridges from the 1970s, which is when the Key Bridge was built, weren’t designed to protect against collisions with ships as big as the Dali.

The Dali has a capacity of about 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo – compared to the approximate cap of about 2,500 twenty-foot equivalent units that could be carried by container ships in the 1970s, CNN has reported.

Some experts said that this week’s disaster should inspire engineers to reevaluate whether America’s aging infrastructure can withstand impacts from the gigantic ships that traverse our waterways today.


Source: CNN


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