Baltimore Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: Everything we know so far

How did the incident unfold and what happens next? ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger explains

A section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has collapsed after it was hit by a cargo ship early on Tuesday morning.

The collision has been described as a "developing mass casualty event" by Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department.

Here's how did the incident unfold and what happens next.

Where is the bridge?

The Francis Scott Key Bridge is in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States.

The bridge spans 1.6 miles and carries four lanes of traffic over the Patapsco River.

It serves as the outermost crossing of the Baltimore harbour and an essential link of Interstate-695, or the Baltimore Beltway.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge pictured in 2012. Credit: AP

The bridge carried an estimated 11.5 million vehicles every year, and was used by approximately 31,500 vehicles every day.

The port supports 15,330 direct jobs and 139,180 jobs in Maryland, according to the Maryland government's website.

Baltimore ranks as the ninth biggest US port for international cargo, and it handled 52.3 million tonnes of good, valued at $80.8 billion (£60.8 billion), in 2023.

Who has been affected?

Two people have been pulled from the water, according to a press conference given by officials.

One was taken to hospital in a serious condition but has since been discharged.

It is thought there were eight people on the bridge at the time of the crash, six of which are now missing and are presumed dead by their employer Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders.

Multiple vehicles were on the bridge at the time, including one the size of a tractor-trailer.

Credit: Getty Images

Authorities said a crew of eight had been working on the bridge at the time of the collapse and that sonar had detected cars in the water, which is about 50 feet (15 metres) deep.

Divers have been deployed to find the missing people and sonar is being used to scan for missing vehicles.

It is understood that everyone on board the ship has been accounted for.

Why did the bridge collapse?

The cargo ship, which is called Dali, reported losing power just before it struck a column on the bridge.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the ship lost power and issued a mayday call moments before it struck the bridge, though it was still moving at a rapid speed.

What exactly triggered the bridge to fall has not been determined but it was judged to be in a "fair" condition in its last inspection before the crash.

Around 1.30am local time, the large vessel crashed into the bridge.

A port worker told ITV News in the days before the collision, the ship was "having serious power outages".

In a live video of the ship hitting the bridge, the vessels lights switch off in the seconds before it strikes.

It is not clear at this stage if this is the sole reason for the incident.

Credit: LiveStream footage

Officials will begin assessing the condition of the bridge both before and after it's collapse, Kevin Cartwright, director of communications of the Baltimore City Fire Department told CNN on Tuesday.

The FBI was at the scene but said there was no credible information to suggest the incident was in anyway linked to terrorism.

President Biden added there was no indication the crash was intentional.

What do we know about the vessel?

The vessel is thought to be the Vessel DALI, which is a cargo ship sailing under the flag of Singapore.

The ship is 299 metres long and 48 metres wide, according to Marine Vessel Traffic data.

It was reportedly sailing from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The container ship was not being piloted by its own crew, but by local pilots who are typically brought on board to navigate ships through ports.

Credit: APTN

"Pilots move ships in and out of the Port of Baltimore," said Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld at a news conference Tuesday. The idea is that local pilots are aware of hazards in each port, river and channel, she added.

Danish shipping giant Maersk said it had chartered the vessel, which was carrying its customers’ cargo, but that no Maersk crew and personnel were on board.

The collapse prompted Maersk shares listed on the Danish stock market to plummet 2% in early Tuesday trading.

What is the wider travel disruption?

There remains disruption around the bridge and the surrounding areas as a result of the incident.

“All lanes closed both directions for incident on I-695 Key Bridge. Traffic is being detoured,” the Maryland Transportation Authority posted on X.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced he had declared a state of emergency in the state on Tuesday morning and said he is working "to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration."

Mr Wiedefeld said all vessel traffic into and out of the port would be suspended until further notice, but the facility is still open to trucks.

The head of a supply chain management company says Americans should expect shortages of goods as the route affects ocean container shipping and East Coast trucking logistics.

Ryan Petersen, CEO of Flexport said his team had to reroute about 800 shipping containers making their way to Baltimore’s port on Tuesday.

When was the bridge built?

The Francis Scott Key Bridge opened in 1977 and is named after the author who wrote the US national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner.

Francis Scott Key is thought to have sat near the site of the bridge as he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814, inspiring him to write the words of the US national anthem.

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