Top NewsBaltimore bridge collapse: Divers find two bodies in submerged...

Baltimore bridge collapse: Divers find two bodies in submerged truck

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  • By Madeline Halbert
  • BBC News, New York

image source, Good pictures

The bodies of two people have been recovered from a red pickup truck that was submerged in the water after the Baltimore bridge collapsed.

Eight construction workers were on the bridge when a ship hit it and they drowned in the water below.

Two of the workers were rescued that day, but the search continues for the other four – all presumed dead.

Rescue crews are working to deal with hazardous materials and accident investigators are on scene.

Four of the six people who died in the bridge collapse have been named so far.

In a press conference Wednesday, Maryland State Police identified the two workers rescued from the truck by divers as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26. Mr Fuentes is from Mexico and Mr Cabrera is from Guatemala.

But police said divers could no longer safely enter the water due to concrete and debris found in the river. They are now using sonar scans and believe the vehicles with the other bodies are “bound by the surface and concrete” that came down from the bridge, an official said.

Two other missing persons presumed dead have been named: Miguel Luna, originally from El Salvador, and Manor Suazo Sandoval, a Honduran citizen.

Authorities said late Wednesday that one person in the hospital was released after being pulled from the water.

First responders spent hours Tuesday scouring the waters of the Patapsco River for six construction workers repairing dents on the bridge when the ship hit it at about 01:30 a.m. (05:30 GMT). The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search at sunset, when water temperatures turned cold and hours passed, meaning the workers were presumed dead.

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The authorities have promised to hand over the bodies of the two to their relatives.

“We need closure for these families,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore told reporters Wednesday.

“My promise to them is this: I will devote every resource to making sure you get closure,” he said.

But the move is challenging, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Gautier said Wednesday.

They were swimming in cold water with metal debris from the bridge that had fallen into the river.

Mr Gautier said the cargo ship was stable but had more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil and lube oil on board.

About 4,700 cargo containers were on board, 56 of which contained hazardous materials.

“The Coast Guard has moved aggressively to board the ship and we have crews,” Mr Gautier said.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homandy said some containers containing hazardous materials were “violated.”

The U.S. Navy plans to use rocks with heavy-lift cranes carrying some 1,000 tons to remove parts of the bridge that have fallen into the water.

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Maritime expert Jim Bellingham told the BBC that investigations into what went wrong with the ship would be crucial.

“A huge advantage is that the ship didn't sink, so they have access to the bridge logs and records of what's going on,” he said.

Officials hope a data recorder taken from the ship overnight will provide additional information.

The Thali was heading towards Sri Lanka when it suddenly lost power and crashed into the Baltimore Bridge before it called for disaster.

A bridge collapse at a major port could endanger global supply chains and the U.S. economy, officials say.

Mr Moore said the bridge collapse could affect 8,000 jobs and called the incident a “global crisis”.

“The national economy and the global economy depend on the port,” he said, adding that $80bn (£63.4bn) of cargo went through there last year.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld stressed that replacing the bridge is not a quick process, but he assured a press conference Wednesday that “officials are working to quickly come up with a design to replace that bridge. We can restore the harbor and get the community moving again.”

Experts say the collapse of the Key Bridge could lead to losses of up to $15m (£11.8m) a day until the shipping lane is reopened.

U.S. Senator Ben Cordin of Maryland said he was confident the state would get the resources it needs to rebuild and begin work on a replacement bridge “thanks to the Biden administration.”

“Opening the shipping lane is our priority because it has an impact on our country and the global supply chain,” he said.

Investigators also hope to determine whether dirty fuel played a role in the fatal crash. Maritime experts say the contaminated fuel can cause problems with the ship's main power generators, causing the ship to black out.

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