NewsKey Bridge Collapse


Support for families of Key Bridge victims coming from Baltimore & beyond

Posted at 6:25 PM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-12 07:52:05-04

BALTIMORE — They came to the U.S. searching for the American dream. They died in the U.S. working to make all of our lives easier, filling potholes on a heavily traveled bridge.

The six men who lost their lives when that bridge collapsed - Jose Mynor Lopez, Carlos Hernandez, Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, Miguel Luna, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval and Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes - leave behind six families. Some of them are related. Four of the men were fathers.

"Many of those who passed away were the breadwinners of their homes. And so we really want to make sure they don't have to worry about immediate needs," Catalina Rodriguez Lima, director of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, or MIMA, said.

Almost immediately after the victims were identified, the world descended on their families. Governor Moore pleaded with the media to respect their privacy, saying police officers had to be stationed outside their homes.

They were inundated by well-intentioned people and organizations, reaching out with offers of assistance. All of the families are Latino immigrants. There's a language barrier, a cultural barrier. They were overwhelmed. MIMA stepped in.

"So that they could have somebody in the corner to help them decipher the various services, resources, programs and public entities that were trying to connect with them," Rodriguez Lima said.

People here in Baltimore and beyond were looking for ways to help financially. MIMA started a fundraiser online, theKey Bridge Emergency Response Fund. So far, it's raised more than $615,000.

"What is surprising is that it's come from over 5,000 people," Rodriguez Lima said. "The donations have not been extremely large. They range from a dollar, to $25, to $500. I think that makes it very encouraging. It's also donations from across the country, not just Maryland."

MIMA is keeping that fundraiser open until the end of May. You can donate here.

The money will first help the families with immediate needs like rent and utilities. It's going directly to both the families of the six men who died, and the two survivors.

When asked how the survivors are doing, Rodriguez Lima said, "As you can imagine, just a lot of trauma."

Just a few days after the collapse, CASA, an immigrant advocacy group of which two of the victims were members, held a rally with essential workers.

The goal was to highlight the contributions immigrants make to the U.S. economy, and petition for immigration relief efforts like expanded temporary protected status.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, said the six men who died were examples of “the workers who made it possible for us to get to work, visit family, who work at night and in the cold, and throughout the pandemic so that our lives could be easier.”

Darwin Orlando Lopez, a CASA member, said:  "In my work as a construction worker I face danger. But I risk my life to ensure income for my family."

This is the second time in a year CASA has lost members to construction accidents. Last March, six people were killed after a driver sped into their work zone on I-695. 

CASA notes there are about 334,300 workers in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas in the essential construction industry, and immigrants make up 39 percent of the industry.

Rodriguez Lima from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs says immigrants are especially vulnerable to such incidents. 

“They face unique challenges related to language, fear of government, fear of being deported because of their lack of status,” she said. "I think as a city we recognize those challenges, and we partner with organizations like CASA and others to make sure they’re aware of their rights, they’re aware of the existing resources and programs.