Bodies of 2 Baltimore bridge collapse victims recovered; 4 missing, presumed dead

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Florida Construction News staff writer

Divers have recovered the bodies of two men who were working on a highway bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday when it was struck by a cargo ship and collapsed into the river below, police say.

Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent for Maryland State Police, said officials paused the search for the bodies of four more workers, who are presumed dead, because conditions in the water on Wednesday had become too dangerous.

The two men who died and the four who are presumed dead were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Butler said.

Rescuers pulled two construction workers alive from the Patapsco River on Tuesday. One was hospitalized.

All eight were part of a work crew repairing potholes on the road surface when the cargo ship Dali, leaving Baltimore for Sri Lanka, struck one of the bridge’s pillars at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

President Biden has promised federal funds “to pay for the entire cost of reconstructing” the bridge, and said he would visit Baltimore “as soon as I can.”

According to a report by Associated Press, a construction worker with Brawner Builders said his missing co-workers were on a break when the bridge collapsed at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Brawner Builders Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pritzker confirmed they are presumed to have died given the water’s depth and the amount of time that has passed since the incident.

“This was so completely unforeseen,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers. But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse.”

One worker was hospitalized.

The company said a crew was filling potholes near the middle of the bridge at the time.

“This was so completely unforeseen,” the company CEO is quoted saying. “We don’t know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers. But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse.”

The Maryland Transportation Authority first responder radio traffic includes a dispatcher putting out a call saying a ship had lost its steering ability and asking officers to stop all traffic. It took officers less than two minutes to stop traffic on the bridge.

An officer radioed that he was going to drive onto the bridge to notify the construction crew once a second officer arrived. But seconds later, a frantic officer radioed that the bridge had collapsed.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the federal resources will be used to “assist with the search and rescue, to reopen the port, and to rebuild the bridge as quickly as possible. And of course, I know we all will stand and continue to stand with the people of Maryland,” Harris said.

The bridge carried an estimated 30,800 vehicles a day on average in 2019. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, that translates to about 11.3 million vehicles a year across the bridge, which was built in the 1970s and was 1.6 miles long.

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