The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday morning after a colossal ship clashed with the structure, unleashing chaos in Baltimore and tragedy for at least seven families. (Anthony Tilghman/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)
The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on March 26 after a colossal ship clashed with the structure, unleashing chaos in Baltimore and tragedy for at least seven families. (Anthony Tilghman/The 老澳门开奖网 Informer)

In one of the ultimate nightmares, the Francis Scott Key Bridge, an iconic lifeline for Baltimore鈥檚 bustling metropolis, was ripped apart in a thunderous clash with a colossal container ship, unleashing chaos in and around Charm City and tragedy for at least seven families. 

When the ship, known as the Dali, hit the support column, the once-sturdy structure crumbled beneath the vessel鈥檚 onslaught, sending people and vehicles plummeting into the icy depths of the Patapsco River at about 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Officials immediately declared that they didn鈥檛 suspect terrorism or any sabotage.

Emergency crews raced against time, battling the elements to rescue survivors trapped in the wreckage. 

At 8:30 a.m., two individuals were reportedly rescued while the search intensified. One of the victims reportedly suffered critical injuries.  

“We鈥檙e facing an unprecedented crisis,” declared Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace, his voice heavy with emotion. “Our priority remains the search and rescue efforts to locate those still missing.”

Gov. Wes Moore wasted no time declaring a state of emergency and mobilizing resources and support from across the nation. 

“We stand united in the face of tragedy,” Moore proclaimed.

Bridge Was ‘Up to Code’ 鈥 But Code May Not Be Up to Date

, U.S. infrastructure lead at the global engineering company , said footage of the Key Bridge鈥檚 collapse felt eerily familiar. In 1980, a freighter hit the Sunshine Skyway in Tampa Bay, Florida, causing a section of the bridge to collapse and killing 35 people.

鈥淚 had flashbacks,鈥 Lehman said. 鈥淭he visual was so similar to the visual of Tampa Bay, because it was the same type of structure and it went down the same way鈥 I mean, that was the beginning of my career, I was still in college. But they’re haunting images. They burn into your head.鈥

After the Tampa Bay disaster, Lehman said, engineers adopted new standards for 鈥減ier protection.鈥 That typically involves artificial islands or other barriers in the water around the piers holding up a bridge. 

Lehman said ships have gotten far bigger and heavier than they were when those standards were created. Some pier protection barriers may simply not be large or strong enough to stop a freighter like the Dali. 

鈥淭hese [ships] 鈥 they’re monsters. I mean, they鈥檙e skyscrapers,鈥 Lehman said.

The Key Bridge, built in 1977, has pier protection barriers, known as 鈥渄olphins.鈥 But some experts looking at the footage said that the ship may have slipped between the protective objects because it came in at an angle, the .听

Moore said during Tuesday morning鈥檚 press conference that the structure was 鈥渇ully up to code.鈥 But experts say no bridge鈥檚 piers could withstand a collision with a ship as big as the Dali. 

It Fell So Fast

The collision, , sent shockwaves nationwide, prompting an outpouring of support and solidarity. Helicopters buzzed overhead, casting their searchlights upon the river鈥檚 surface as rescuers scoured the waters for signs of life.

When Kirk Roberts, a retired truck driver in Baltimore County, heard about the bridge collapse, he contacted his brothers and sisters in a group message and said 鈥淧rayers going out.鈥

鈥淚 used to drive dump trucks and my last tractor-trailer job was in Dundalk,鈥 Roberts, 60, told The Informer. 鈥淚聽 have a lot of friends who drive trucks. We used to have to bring cargo out of Pier 5.鈥

He remembered often driving the Key Bridge at night.

鈥淲e were constantly crossing that bridge,鈥 Roberts said, before considering the unsettling and tragic footage of the bridge collapse. 

鈥淚t fell so fast it was like one-1,000 and it just crumbled,鈥 he said. 鈥淭here are a lot of people who work in the area and depend on that bridge and the shipping in the area.鈥

This story is developing and will be updated.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The 老澳门开奖网 Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

Kayla Benjamin covers climate change & environmental justice for the Informer as a full-time reporter through the Report for America program. Prior to her time here, she worked at 老澳门开奖网ian Magazine...

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the 老澳门开奖网 Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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