Dispatch audio reveals the intense moment on-site officers realized a 984-ft ship was about to crash into Baltimore’s biggest bridge

Dispatch audio reveals the intense moment on-site officers realized a 984-ft ship was about to crash into Baltimore’s biggest bridge
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Left: The cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Right: Security forces take measures and close the roads leading to the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge
Left: The cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Right: Security forces take measures and close the roads leading to the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge

  • Radio archives show police had less than two minutes to close traffic at a bridge before its collapse.
  • The bridge in Baltimore fell into the Patapsco River on Tuesday after a 984-foot ship crashed into it.
  • Authorities credited the officers with saving lives by quickly stopping cars from crossing the bridge.

On-site officers from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police had less than two minutes to halt traffic on the Francis Scott Key Bridge before a container ship crashed into its support beam, dispatch records show.

Authorities say the Dali, a 984-foot Singapore-flagged vessel, issued a mayday call as it lost power while bearing down on the bridge on Tuesday morning.

That call and the subsequent actions of law enforcement to quickly seal off traffic on the bridge have been credited with preventing further casualties.

Archives of police radio on Broadcastify, reviewed by Business Insider, show just how little time some officers had to react before the ship’s impact collapsed the bridge. Part of the archives can be listened to on Broadcastify’s YouTube channel for easier access.

The officers communicated normally until one alerted his colleagues to the incoming danger at around 1.27 a.m. that morning.

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“I need one of you guys on the south side, one of you guys on the north side. Hold all traffic on the key bridge,” the officer said. “There’s a ship approaching that’s just lost their steering.”

Two officers responded affirmatively within 20 seconds and said they were moving to follow his instructions.

Then, another officer raised a new issue. “Is there a crew working on the bridge right now?” he asked.

A small construction crew of eight workers was fixing potholes on the bridge, and six of them are now presumed dead. The six were Latino and were having a meal break in or near their vehicles at the time of the crash, one of their colleagues told The Washington Post.

At 1:28 a.m., the officer who issued the initial orders told his team to find a foreman to “get them off the bridge temporarily.”

One officer said he was occupied with stopping traffic and would travel down his lane to “grab the workers on the key bridge” once a colleague relieved him.

But 10 seconds later, an urgent message came through.

“C-13 dispatch! The whole bridge just fell down!” an officer said. “Star- whoever, everybody, the whole bridge just collapsed.”

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“Do we know if all traffic is stopped?” the first officer asked.

“I can’t get to the other side, sir, the bridge is down,” the officer said about 30 seconds later.

At 1:30 a.m., another officer recommended calling marine rescue services. “10-4, all traffic on the key bridge is down, we got workers in the water,” he said.

The Dali crashed into the bridge at around 1:28 a.m., causing the span of the structure to collapse. The ship lost propulsion, preventing its pilots from navigating around the support beam.

Its crew attempted a last-ditch effort to slow the ship by dropping anchor, but to no avail, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said.

At 10:30 p.m. local time, officials said the search for the six missing men had changed from a rescue mission to a search and recovery phase. The US Coast Guard said the missing men are likely dead due to the frigid temperatures of the water and how long they were submerged.

At a news conference on Thursday, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore praised the actions of the MTA Police just before the crash, saying they had “saved lives” with their response.

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“Literally by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge, these people are heroes,” Moore said.

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge is likely to cause major disruptions to the supply chains of multiple industries, with about 11.3 million vehicles using the bridge annually.

On Tuesday, the area was snagged with heavy traffic as its alternate routes — two tunnels near the city’s downtown — filled with cars and trucks in what residents fear will be a glimpse of commuting conditions for months, Reuters reported.

The Port of Baltimore has been closed to vessels until further notice, potentially bringing about $15 million worth of daily economic activity to a halt, per experts who spoke with BI’s Dominic Reuter.

The port is especially important to the automotive industry, being one of the largest facilities that can accommodate wheeled cargo like cars and farming equipment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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