Key Bridge Disaster Update—2 Bodies Recovered, Bow Remains 'Unstable,' Concern Over Hazardous Materials

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We’re learning more about the tragic Francis Scott Key Bridge disaster as divers recovered two bodies from the frigid waters of the Baltimore harbor Wednesday. They were workers who were making repairs to the roadway:

Col. Roland L. Butler Jr. said that shortly before 10 a.m. ET divers found a red pickup truck in about 25 feet of water.

“Divers recovered two victims of this tragedy trapped within the vehicle,” Butler said.

He said Maryland State Police notified the families of those found about an hour ago. Their names were given as:

Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes from Mexico

Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera from Guatemala

The workers, who were filling potholes on the bridge at the time of the incident, were from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, officials said.

Butler Jr. confirmed that both men whose bodies were found today were working for the construction company. One was identified by a driver’s license in his pocket, the other was identified by fingerprint, he said.

Four other workers are presumed dead, and the efforts have now officially moved into salvage mode:

“Based upon the conditions, we’re now moving from a recovery mode to a salvage operation because of the superstructure surrounding what we believe are the vehicles and the amount of concrete and debris; divers are no longer able to safely navigate or operate around that in the areas around this wreckage,” [Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland] Butler said.

It’s not the first time the ship, the Dali, has had issues:

See: NEW: MV Dali Lost Propulsion Before Crashing Into Baltimore Bridge; Had Prior Crash in 2016

Maryland’s governor warned that the disaster will have international economic implications:

“The collapse of the Key Bridge is not just a Maryland crisis. The collapse of a key bridge is a global crisis,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference. “The national economy and the world’s economy depend on the port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in the country.”

See: Will Baltimore Survive the Closing of Its Port?

Meanwhile, 56 containers on board have been identified as carrying hazardous materials, but officials cannot access the ship’s bow because it is unstable.

“It’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, and very dangerous, to place people on the bow of that boat right now,” [Baltimore City Fire Chief James] Wallace told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins…

Wallace said his team is relying heavily on aerial recognizance, including drones. “That’s the only way we’re able to see in,” he said. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has been at the scene, and Chair Jennifer Homendy said the catastrophe was “devastating”:

“It’s pretty devastating, certainly, seeing not just what’s going on with the cargo containers, but just looking at what was a bridge span — three bridge spans that is pretty much gone. It’s just utter devastation,” she said at Wednesday evening’s news briefing.

The NTSB interviewed the ship’s captain, his mate, the chief engineer, and one other engineer Wednesday and plans to speak Thursday with the two pilots on board the Dali at the time of the crash.

Homendy added that the recorders aboard cargo vessels are not as advanced as those on board airliners:

The voyage data recorder on the cargo ship Dali was a “newer model” but is considered basic when compared to that on an airplane, according to National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy.

“But it is very basic compared to say, a flight data recorder, where we would have 1,000 parameters,” she said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The NTSB chief investigator Marcel Muise added:

“It’s not a ship-wide system recorder, so most of the sensors that are being recorded are from the bridge. So things like GPS, the audio, rudder feedback, rudder commands are recorded on there. But not engineering, the temperature of each cylinder, power distribution sensors.”

President Joe Biden also weighed in, claiming he had taken the train over the bridge many times in his career–although there is no train track on the crossing. Transportation Secretary “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg also hit the airwaves to declare that anyone who is found responsible for the disaster will be “held accountable.” This declaration came after Biden had already promised that the federal government would foot the bill for reconstruction. 

The investigation is expected to take as long as two years, and there are many angles to the story. RedState will continue to provide updates as necessary.

More Key Bridge coverage:

Repugnant AP Tries to Inject Race Into Tragic Baltimore Bridge Collapse, Drags Up Namesake’s Slavery Past

Unsung Heroes: Officers With the Maryland Transportation Authority Acted Fast During Bridge Collapse

NEW: MV Dali Lost Propulsion Before Crashing Into Baltimore Bridge; Had Prior Crash in 2016

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