Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: What we know now about the ship, and those killed

Harbor pilot's warned that the ship had lost power and was headed toward the bridge.

Minutes before a ship the length of three football fields hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge spanning Baltimore Harbor, the man piloting the vessel sent out an urgent warning that the ship was out of control and likely to hit the 1.6-mile bridge.

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The pilot of the cargo ship named Dali issued the mayday call saying they could not steer the ship and that it was headed toward the largest span of the bridge at “a very, very rapid speed,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

After the ship hit the bridge, going at about 9 miles an hour, six people were reported missing. The missing men were part of a group working to repair potholes on the bridge.

As of early Wednesday morning, none of the missing men had been found and authorities say the mission is now focused on recovery, not rescue.

The National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the site of the accident Tuesday, and by evening had boarded the ship and taken possession of the vessel’s “black boxes,” which contain information about what happened on the ship in the minutes before it hit the span.

What happens next? Here’s what we know now:

Search and rescue efforts suspended; recovery efforts start

The Coast Guard suspended search and rescue efforts Tuesday evening and began search and recovery efforts Wednesday at daylight, according to officials.

Eight people were initially unaccounted for after the ship hit the bridge.

One of the workers ran from the bridge as the vessel hit it, and another fell into the water and swam ashore, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security briefing obtained by ABC News.

The other six are believed dead.

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

“We’re hoping to put divers in the water and begin a more detailed search to do our very best to recover those six missing people,” Col. Roland Butler with the Maryland State Police said.

The Times reported that despite the mayday call, the road repair crew and its vehicles remained on the bridge, officials said.

Power issues reported before the crash

The Dali was leaving the Port of Baltimore when, moments later, the man piloting the ship reported that the vessel had “lost propulsion” and was likely going to hit the bridge.

Radio traffic from emergency workers suggested that the crew was struggling to steer the ship, according to audio published by Broadcastify and reported by The New York Times.

Most of the lights on the ship went dark minutes before the ship hit the bridge, and black smoke could be seen billowing from the vessel.

Power issues with large vessels are not uncommon, Clay Diamond, executive director of the American Pilots’ Association, told USA Today.

“It’s likely that virtually every pilot in the country has experienced a power loss of some kind (but) it generally is momentary,” Diamond said. “This was a complete blackout of all the power on the ship, so that’s unusual. Of course, this happened at the worst possible location.”

Who was steering the ship?

According to a Coast Guard memo obtained by ABC News, a harbor pilot and an assistant aboard the cargo ship reported the power problems. The pilots were operating the ship, not the ship’s captain.

Harbor pilots are people who are experts on their local waterways. They are usually certified by the state or federal government to provide advice to the captain of the vessel as to how to control their ships through local waters.

Harbor pilots come onboard vessels to guide them out of harbors. They guide everything from large cargo ships to cruise ships.

The pilot on the Dali quickly gave a string of orders as the ship lost power, CNN reported, calling for a hard rudder to port — meaning turning left as far as possible — and for an anchor to be dropped.

What do we know about the Dali?

The Dali is registered in Singapore and was being leased by Maersk, the Danish shipping company.

It was on the way to Colombo, Sri Lanka, carrying 4,700 shipping containers, according to Synergy Marine, its manager and operator.

There were 24 people on the ship when it hit the bridge, including the two Baltimore port pilots. All on the ship were accounted for and there were no injuries reported. The crew included 22 Indian citizens.

Did the Dali have any problems before Tuesday?

The Dali is owned by Grace Ocean Investment.

An inspection of the ship last year at a port in Chile reported that the vessel had a deficiency related to gauges and thermometers, the Times reported.

The deficiency was for “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.”

The ship has had 27 inspections since 2015, according to a database maintained by Equasis, a website that provides safety-related information on ships and companies.

In 2016, the ship hit a stone wall at the port in Antwerp, damaging the hull and “impairing seaworthiness.”

Are there “black boxes” on a ship?

Yes, ships have systems that record all aspects of the vessel’s operation. It’s called the voyage data recorder.

According to the NTSB, they have possession of the data recorder from the Dali.

Did the Francis Scott Key Bridge have any problems?

According to CBS Baltimore, during its latest federal inspection, the Key Bridge scored a six out of nine, which is considered “fair.” Fair is what the bridge has been labeled since 2008.

One of the bridge’s columns was downgraded in a “health index” in May 2022. It’s not clear which of the bridge’s columns was downgraded.

While the column was downgraded, the mass of the ship — the Dali weighs 95,000 tons empty — and the speed it was moving when it hit the bridge are likely to blame for its collapse.

Ben Schafer, professor of civil and systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told CBS News that most bridges in the U.S. fall in the “fair” range.

Around 33,000 vehicles cross the bridge in a day.

How will the bridge be replaced? What about the debris?

President Joe Biden pledged Tuesday that the federal government would pay to replace the bridge, which cost $110 million when it was opened in 1977.

The cleanup and reopening of the waterway supply chain will take time.

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port, according to MarineTraffic. At least 30 other ships had signaled their destination was Baltimore, Reuters reported.

The Port of Baltimore handles more automobile cargo than any other U.S. port. It moved more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022, according to port data.

The U.S. Coast Guard is examining more than a dozen damaged containers, CNN reported. Some are believed to have potentially hazardous materials, according to a US government document obtained by CNN and a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

About 1.8 million gallons of “marine diesel spill potential” from the crashed ship is also being monitored by federal officials, according to the memo.

Officials are assessing the scene Wednesday morning to determine how best to remove the steel from the fallen bridge.

Was it terrorism?

The FBI and local officials say they can find no evidence it was a terrorist act.

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