Bodies of 2 Baltimore bridge collapse victims recovered; 4 missing, presumed dead

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Photo supplied by Maryland National Guard

New York Construction Report staff writer

A 1,000-ton crane was expected to arrive in Baltimore Thursday night, after federal officials approved $60 million in emergency-relief funding for work to clear the Patapsco River continues after the Francis Scott Key Bridge was hit by a cargo ship an collapsed on Tuesday.

Divers have recovered the bodies of two men who were working on the bridge, but Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent for Maryland State Police, said officials paused the search for the bodies of four more workers, who are presumed dead, because conditions in the water had become too dangerous on Wednesday.

The two men who died and the four who are presumed dead were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Butler said.

Rescuers also pulled two construction workers alive from the Patapsco River on Tuesday. One was hospitalized.

All eight men were part of a work crew repairing potholes on the road surface when the cargo ship Dali, leaving Baltimore for Sri Lanka, struck one of the bridge’s pillars at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

According to a report by Associated Press, a construction worker with Brawner Builders said his missing co-workers were on a break when the bridge collapsed at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Brawner Builders Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pritzker confirmed they are presumed to have died given the water’s depth and the amount of time that has passed since the incident.

“This was so completely unforeseen,” the company CEO is quoted saying. “We don’t know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers. But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s $60 million emergency funding will assist with the state’s recovery and cleanup efforts.

“The tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has touched every corner of the nation, and we are ready to support Governor Moore and the people of Maryland in any way,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a joint statement. “We have seen over the past several years that indefinite port closures can impact national and global supply chains, which hurt everyday consumers the hardest.

“The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey can take on additional cargo, and we have directed the Authority to further evaluate all available resources to minimize supply chain disruptions. Along with our federal partners, we will continue to work together to support our neighbors in Baltimore and consumers nationwide.”

President Biden has promised federal funds will “pay for the entire cost of reconstructing” the bridge, and said he would visit Baltimore “as soon as I can.”

The Maryland Transportation Authority first responder radio traffic includes a dispatcher putting out a call saying a ship had lost its steering ability and asking officers to stop all traffic. It took officers less than two minutes to stop traffic on the bridge.

An officer radioed that he was going to drive onto the bridge to notify the construction crew once a second officer arrived. But seconds later, a frantic officer radioed that the bridge had collapsed.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the federal resources will be used to “assist with the search and rescue, to reopen the port, and to rebuild the bridge as quickly as possible. And of course, I know we all will stand and continue to stand with the people of Maryland,” Harris said.

The bridge carried an estimated 30,800 vehicles a day on average in 2019. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, that translates to about 11.3 million vehicles a year across the bridge, which was built in the 1970s and was 1.6 miles long.

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