Search for Missing Baltimore Bridge Workers Suspended, Cargo Container Service Records Questioned

01 Apr, 2024 Liz Carey

                               

Baltimore, MD (WorkersCompensation.com) – The search for six workers missing after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge was suspended Wednesday after the bodies of two of the men were recovered.

Once the two bodies were recovered from a submerged truck in the Patapsco River, the search for the remaining workers was suspended. Officials presumed the remaining workers were dead. Officials said divers were not able to operate around the bridge debris that has encased the vehicles the workers were presumed to have been.

Early Tuesday morning, a 1,000-ft.-container cargo ship radioed the Port of Baltimore that the ship had lost power and steering. Within minutes, the ship had run into the bridge, which later collapsed. Cargo ship traffic into the port was halted and crews have begun the process of cleaning out the debris.

Officials said eight people, who were part of a construction crew filling potholes, were on the bridge when it collapsed into the river. Emergency responders were able to rescue two of the workers. Two bodies were recovered. The remaining four were missing and presumed dead.

Three of the six victims have been identified – Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 35, of Honduras; Miguel Luna, of El Salvador; and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Guatemala. According to the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed two of the missing men were from Guatemala. According to the Associated Press, Honduras’ Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Garcia said a Honduran citizen was among the missing, and the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. said there were Mexicans among the missing.

Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, the contractor the men worked for, the workers had company-sponsored life insurance. However, Pritzker declined to provide any details about the policies. Pritzker said, the company will offer financial assistance to the missing workers’ families.

"The company is doing everything possible to support the families and to counsel the families and to be with the families," Pritzker said.

The Latino Racial Justice Circle began a GoFundMe account to help the survivors. By Friday, it had raised more than $98,000. Brawner Builders had linked the GoFundMe account to its website, and was directing people who want to help the families to the GoFundMe account.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the cargo ship left the terminal at the Port of Baltimore just after 12:39 a.m. By 1:24 a.m., alarms started sounding within the ship that something was wrong. The power had fluctuated, pitching the ship into total darkness before coming back on again.

The pilot ordered crews to drop anchor and called for tug boats, telling officials the vessel had lost power and was headed toward the bridge. Minutes later the cargo ship crashed into the bridge at 8 knots per minute.

On the bridge, crews were working, officials said. Police patrolling the bridge had just 90 seconds from the time they received the distress calls to stop traffic on and try to get people to safety. Officials stopped some 30 to 40 cars from entering the bridge. Officials said police tried to get to the construction workers and get them off the bridge.

Duty officer Cpl. Jeremy Herbert told the officers to hold all of the bridge traffic.

“I need one of you guys on the south side,” Herbert said in a radio call that was recorded online, the Washington Post reported. “One of you guys on the north side. Hold all traffic on the Key Bridge. There’s a ship approaching that just lost their steering. So until you get that under control, we got to stop all traffic.”

Officer Garry Kirts said he was en route from the South side and had stopped traffic. Another officer Sgt. Paul Pastorek, halted traffic coming from the other side.

Herbert radioed the officers again and asked a crew working on the bridge.

“Just make sure no one is on the bridge right now. … There’s a crew up there, you might want to notify whoever the foreman is. See if we can get them off the bridge temporarily,” he said.

Pastorek told the other officers that he wanted to drive onto the bridge to let construction workers know to get off the span. But, he said, he needed backup at his location to keep traffic stopped. Just a moment later, Kirts radioed dispatchers to send help.

“Start, start, whoever, everybody,” he said on the radio seemingly grasping for words. “The whole bridge just collapsed.”

Prior to the incident on Tuesday morning, the cargo ship was involved in a minor incident in Belgium where it suffered “sufficient damages.” According to the Vesselfinder website, the ship struck the stone wall of a quay during unmooring maneuvers in July 2016. The accident was determined to be caused by a “mistake of the Master and pilot on board.”

Later, an inspection of the ship in San Antonio, Chile last year found propulsion and auxiliary machinery deficiencies, according to NBC News. However, Singapore’s port authority said on Wednesday that the ship had passed overseas inspections and carried structural integrity and functionality certificates at the time of the Baltimore incident. But in June, the authority said in a June inspection, the container ship had a faulty monitor gauge for fuel pressure that was fixed before the vessel left the port.

The ship’s next classification and statutory survey was scheduled for June 2024.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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