NewsKey Bridge Collapse


Sliver of hope for commercial activity returning to Port of Baltimore

Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 18:18:21-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — Today, the Coast Guard took WMAR-2 News out on a boat to get up close to the Key Bridge wreckage site. Pictures don't do it justice. What was once a massive structure, is now broken into mangled pieces of debris. Portions of what once was a roadway jut out of the river. Thousands of tons of wreckage sit on top of the Dali, with the 23 men crew still inside.

We also got up close to the salvage work. We were able to see crews cutting into the the steel pieces of the key bridge sticking out of the Patapsco River. Engineers are using exothermic tools to cut the metal into “bite-sized pieces," as the Army Corps of Engineers puts it.

Lightning paused those crane operations most of Tuesday and Wednesday.

So far only one piece has been removed - we saw it sitting on a barge today waiting to be taken to a disposal site. That piece weighs 200 tons. It took 10 hours to get it out of the water. If we’re talking bite-sized pieces, it was a pretty small bite. And the meal - is huge.

For comparison, the wreckage sitting on top of the Dali weighs 3-4,000 tons.

Taking it all apart is an incredibly intricate, complicated process. The Army Corps of Engineers likened it to a game of Jenga.

"Within that wreckage, there may be forces that it came down with," Army Corps of Engineeers' Colonel Estee Pinchasin said. Those spans might have been contorted in such a way that if you were to cut it, there might be some force that's pent up - and I guess a good way to explain it is like a spring. if I'm gonna pull a spring with tension, and it's laying there and it looks like it's not moving, if I were to cut it, it would snap and go back. So when we're describing why our divers need to go down there, and verify what we're seeing in those 3D drawings, it's because they need to verify what those connections look like, so that we can understand if there are any forces on the wreckage in a certain way. So if we do cut something, God forbid, there won't be an additional risk or that we wouldn't have additional casualties. So we might be describing how things are laying, but it's really about how we're going to take it apart."

“With every layer of wreckage that we take out of the water we have to go back in and survey and assess how the wreckage reacted in order to make sure the next lift is just as safe," Pinchasin said.

Underneath all of that wreckage, below the surface of the river, divers are still searching for the bodies of the 4 still-missing victims. That’s happening as the dive teams are conducting salvage operations.

"In that process, if we detect any sign or even the slightest chance that there’s something we need to continue to investigate - that might be a missing person or a piece of equipment that could possibly have a sign for more recovery efforts we have Maryland State Police to come in and be ready to go right there.”

“On the day of the collapse, I said we will stop at nothing to help these families," Governor Moore said at his daily press briefing today.

He said a liason has been appointed to provide a direct line of communication between the victims' families and the government, to let them know what assistance and support is available to them. Two initial meetings with the families this week lasted a combined six hours.

While the salvage operations continue, Governor Moore says some commercial activity is slowly returning to the Port of Baltimore.

"To keep things moving, we've got to get creative. And we have."

As of this morning, 75 containers that were re-routed to ports in New York and New Jersey after the collapse, arrived at the Seagirt marine terminal, providing work to local longshoremen. They will transport the containers to the port by rail.

“This is not a permanent solution. The 75 containers that were moved today represent less than 5% of the average number of containers that the port processes daily before the collapse. Less than 5%. So we have a long road ahead to get the port back up to full capacity, but we will get it back up to full capacity," Gov. Moore said.