How many people died in Baltimore bridge collapse? Recovery efforts continue for 6 construction workers presumed dead

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BALTIMORE, Md. — The US Coast Guard has suspended search and rescue efforts for six people who were on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed early Tuesday following a major cargo boat collision. Efforts were expected to resume at 6 a.m. Wednesday for the missing people, who are presumed dead.

However, imagery from underwater drones show “an abundance of twisted metal and debris” from the collapsed bridge, making it unsafe for divers to enter the frigid water to search for the six missing construction workers, according to a new assessment of the situation from the Department of Homeland Security obtained by ABC News.

Search deemed unsafe Tuesday night

Search and recovery operations were halted overnight due to dangerous conditions, including “very unstable” sections of the steel bridge and shipping containers hanging from the cargo ship, Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace told CNN. Divers were initially expected to the water Wednesday to search for the six missing.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Tuesday, “We’re still fully committed to making sure that we’re going to use every single asset to now bring a sense of closure to the families.”

Coast Guard assessing hazmat threat

The US Coast Guard is examining damaged shipping containers, some containing potentially hazardous materials, from the crashed vessel, according to a US government document obtained by CNN and a US official familiar with the matter.

Federal officials are monitoring about 1.8 million gallons of fuel inside the ship for its “spill potential,” according to an unclassified memo from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. But the US official familiar with the matter told CNN “lots would have to go wrong” for that amount of fuel to spill.

An elite Coast Guard team is examining 13 damaged containers from the crashed vessel, “some with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and/or hazardous materials [HAZMAT] contents,” the CISA memo said. The team is also analyzing the ship’s manifest to determine what was on board and if any materials could pose a health risk, the source said.

One truck and trailer have been recovered, and one vehicle remains hanging from the metal structure, according to DHS.

Investigators have determined there are 13 damaged containers aboard the ship and they are being inspected for any potentially hazardous materials, DHS said.

“There is minor sheening on-scene. Booming has been ordered and is staged but will not be placed until search and rescue and dive operations are complete,” the document said. “The amount of potential oil spill is 1.8M gallons of marine grade diesel.”

Details emerge on those missing

Local authorities have yet to confirm the identities of those missing but have said they include construction workers who were on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

Miguel Luna, from El Salvador, is among the unaccounted for, according to the nonprofit CASA. Honduran man Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval is also missing, his brother told CNN.

Luna headed to his construction job Monday evening and has not come home, according to CASA, a nonprofit that provides services to working-class and immigrant families. He is “a husband, a father of three, and has called Maryland his home for over 19 years,” the nonprofit said in a statement.

RELATED: What we know about the missing workers after Baltimore bridge collapse as recovery efforts resume

Martin Suazo’s family called him early Tuesday with devastating news. His brother, 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, had been doing maintenance work on Key Bridge when it collapsed into the river, he told CNN.

At first, the family held out hope, believing that Suazo would be found alive, the brother said. But now they just hope his body can be recovered so the family can have some closure and give him a proper goodbye.

Suazo is from Azacualpa, Santa Bárbara in Honduras but has been living in the United States for the last 18 years, his brother said. He is a married father of two – an 18-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, Martin Suazo added.

He has been doing construction work but is also an entrepreneur who had started his own maintenance company. He ventured to the US in search of a better life, Martin Suazo said.

The family had been informed that the search was suspended Tuesday night due to the difficult weather conditions but were told that recovery efforts would resume Wednesday morning, the brother said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala said two Guatemalans are also unaccounted for: a 26-year-old from San Luis, Petén, and a 35-year-old from Camotán, Chiquimula. A Mexican Embassy official in Washington said some missing are also Mexican, though he did not say how many.

Investigators to collect evidence

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the crash investigation, but investigators are allowing time for search efforts to continue before they assess the crash site, said the agency’s chair, Jennifer Homendy.

There is “absolutely no indication that it was intentional,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said Tuesday.

The container ship Dali struck Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, partially collapsing the bridge, officials in Maryland said.

A local pilot was at the helm of the ship at the time, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said.

NTSB investigators plan to collect evidence from the vessel, analyze the bridge’s structure and examine debris that fell into to the Patapsco River and onto the ship itself, said Homendy.

A specialized team will also determine who was controlling the vessel and who was on the ship’s bridge at the time of the crash, she said.

RELATED: Here’s what surprised a Drexel University professor about the Baltimore bridge collapse

As officials have said the crash appears to be an accident, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg looked to ease fears about bridge safety across the country, calling the Key Bridge collapse “a unique circumstance.”

“I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size,” he said Tuesday.

Ship blacked out before crash

Just minutes before impact, there was a “total blackout” of engine and electrical power on the ship, according to Clay Diamond, executive director of the American Pilots Association.

Diamond pointed out that while the lights on the boat could be seen turning back on – likely due to an emergency generator – the ship’s engines never recovered.

“It’s not unheard of for there to be an engine and generator casualty like it happened here, it just happened at the exact wrong time and place,” he said.

Investigators will comb ship for evidence

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the crash investigation, but investigators are allowing time for search efforts to continue before they assess the crash site, said the agency’s chair, Jennifer Homendy.

NTSB investigators plan to collect evidence from the vessel, analyze the bridge’s structure and examine debris that fell into to the Patapsco River and onto the ship itself, said Homendy.

RELATED: NTSB combing through voyage-data recorder to build crash timeline in Baltimore bridge collapse

A specialized team will also determine who was controlling the vessel and who was on the ship’s bridge at the time of the crash, she said.

As officials have said the crash appears to be an accident, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg looked to ease fears about bridge safety across the country, calling the Key Bridge collapse “a unique circumstance.”

“I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size,” he said Tuesday.

Reconstruction has hefty price tag

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said rebuilding the bridge will “not be quick” and will certainly be costly. President Joe Biden also called on Congress to support recovery efforts and said he intends for the federal government to cover the full repair costs.

President Biden pledged his support in the wake of the collapse, telling residents “we’re going to stay with you as long as it takes.”

“It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstruction in that bridge. I expect the Congress to support my effort,” Biden said from the White House.

Traffic impact ahead of busy holiday weekend

The bridge collapse will have a major traffic impact for the East Coast, especially ahead of a busy holiday travel weekend.

About 30 thousand vehicles travel on I-695 and cross the Key Bridge each day.

Now, the already busy Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and the Fort McHenry Tunnel will have to absorb that traffic.

The Fort McHenry is part of I-95 and already handles about 115,000 vehicles per day.

Vital shipping port remains closed

With the Port of Baltimore closed to maritime traffic, transportation officials expect backups to rail and truck freight shipments as cargo shifts along the eastern seaboard, the document said.

After search efforts conclude, a top priority will be clearing the channel so the Port of Baltimore can reopen, US Sen. Chris Van Hollen told CNN Tuesday. He noted around four ships cannot leave the port and approximately 20 others are waiting to get in.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg said there is “no question that this will be a major and protracted impact to supply chains. It’s too soon to offer estimates on what it will take to clear the channel and reopen the port.”

The Key Bridge was toppled shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after the hulking shipping container lost power and smashed into one of the bridge’s support columns, sending people and cars into the frigid Patapsco River.

RELATED: How to manage your fears after Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Eight construction workers were believed to be mending potholes on the bridge when it fell, according to officials. Two survived and were pulled from the river but the remaining six are presumed dead due to the prolonged search time and cold water conditions, they said.

All 22 crew members of the container ship – a Singaporean-flagged vessel named DALI – are safe and accounted for, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

But the vessel – and all of its contents – still sit in the middle of the channel, its bow draped with massive pieces of the mangled steel bridge.

PHOTOS: Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapses after cargo ship rams into support column

A container ship rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Pasadena, Md.

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Gov. Wes Moore called the collapse a “catastrophic and horrific occurrence” for the state and the families of those missing, who he was able to speak with Tuesday.

“They reminded us who these individuals were – that they weren’t just special workers who were doing important work for the city and for the state, but they were people who were husbands and sons and fathers and brothers-in-law,” Moore said. “So this is a really devastated community of families.”

Ship’s pilot did ‘everything he could,’ pilot association official says

The pilot of the ship did “everything that he could have done” to both slow the vessel down and keep it from drifting toward the bridge once it lost power, said Diamond, the American Pilots Association director.

Diamond told CNN he has been in close communication with the Association of Maryland Pilots regarding what unfolded on the Dali cargo ship in the moments leading up to the crash.

The pilot quickly gave a string of orders, calling for the anchor to be dropped and the rudder to be pulled as far left as possible, Diamond said. He also called the dispatch office to shut down traffic on the bridge – an action several officials have credited with saving lives.

RELATED: Officials stopped traffic onto Baltimore’s Key Bridge before collapse: ‘These people are heroes’

“We’re thankful that between the mayday and the collapse, that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not on the bridge,” Gov. Moore said Tuesday.

But the extraordinary size of the vessel and its proximity to the bridge meant there was little hope for avoiding the crash, Diamond said.

“Those were all the appropriate steps but it happened so quickly and with so little lead time … neither one of those maneuvers were enough,” said Diamond.

Maritime pilots, who are required to be licensed, temporarily board a ship and help guide the vessel as it maneuvers through local waters. Pilot training programs are extensive and rigorous, according to Diamond, requiring years of experience navigating ships on the water, classroom simulations, and working under the supervision of licensed pilots.

(The-CNN-Wire & 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.)

6abc contributed to this post.

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