Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after its struck by a container ship

Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after its struck by a container ship

In Baltimore, early this morning the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after a container ship hit it. (Jeff Covey/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Over 11 million vehicles pass over Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge annually. Spanning over 1.6 miles, the bridge runs over outer harbor and Patapsco River. Around 1:30 a.m., on Tuesday, March 26, the bridge collapsed in a quick horror when a large container ship collided into a supporting pillar. 

The bridge opened in 1977 and was named after the famed American poet who penned the “Star Spangled Banner.” Dali, a 948-foot Singaporean container ship, was en route to Sri Lanka at night when it lost power (twice) heading toward the bridge’s underpass. The ship operators issued a mayday call minutes before the collision prompting transportation officials to halt traffic from entering onto the bridge from either direction. In a press conference, Maryland Governor Wes Moore called these individuals “heroes,” adding that “they saved lives last night.”

Unlike other bridges, the Key Bridge’s unique length between its supporting pillars may have contributed to its destruction. Its span between two pillars extends 1,200 feet, making it the third longest span of truss in the world. 

I have declared a State of Emergency here in Maryland and we are working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore.

The bridge fell apart at multiple sections leaving the structure needing to be reconstructed entirely. In the daylight, the remnants of the bridge can be readily visible floating in the water it used to shadow. 

The U.S. Coast Guard is currently at the forefront of the scene working with local, state, and federal authorities to remedy the situation. It was reported to the Coast Guard that there were reports of persons in the water. Coast Guard Stations at Curtis Bay and Annapolis have deployed response boat crews for an active search and rescue.

President Joe Biden spoke briefly about the collapse, sharing that he has passed over the bridge many times. He also said he was dedicated to having federal funds pay for the reconstruction of bridge.

The impact of the accident created a fire and smoke on the container ship due to portions of the bridge falling upon the vehicle. The Baltimore City Fire Department stated that two construction workers on the bridge fixing potholes were rescued, but as of the time of publication at least six are still unaccounted for.

Operations in the Port of Baltimore have suspended for further notice; it is the largest port for the import of vehicles to the U.S.