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Workers recover bodies of 2 victims from Baltimore bridge collapse

Police said divers located two victims in the sunken debris of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Workers recover bodies of 2 victims from Baltimore bridge collapse
Posted at 7:03 AM, Mar 27, 2024

Police confirmed on Wednesday that rescue workers recovered the bodies of two victims of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, police said divers found the victims trapped in a submerged pickup truck amid the sunken debris of the bridge.

Police notified members of the victims’ families on Tuesday. The governor's office identified the victims as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore; and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk.

Police confirmed both victims were members of the construction company whose crew had been working on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

Officials said one survivor who was hospitalized after the incident was released earlier on Wednesday.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the ship that caused the collapse issued a mayday call, citing trouble with power systems and an inability to steer the vessel. It was not clear if the two effects were related.

Gov. Moore said after the call came in, first responders were able to prevent additional cars from entering the bridge, and notified workers on the bridge to evacuate.

He said he had spoken with at least one person who evacuated the bridge, who said they had been audibly warned by first responders to leave.

Mission shifts to recovery

Gov. Moore said earlier Wednesday the response to the collapse had formally shifted to recovery efforts.

“Today we transitioned from search and rescue to recovery,” Gov. Moore said. “This is not a conclusion, this is a continuation.”

Gov. Moore said state and federal agencies are continuing to coordinate a response to the disaster. He said Maryland has requested emergency relief funds from the Biden administration to assist with operations.

Gov. Moore and other officials emphasized that restoring the port to working order is a top priority, but they were unable to provide immediate timelines.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said the Coast Guard has established a unified command to reopen the waterway to resume safe commerce.

“We are asking the federal government to help us through this crisis,” Maryland’s Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said. “We are very confident that we will get the immediate attention we need.”

Every day the port is closed affects Baltimore, the U.S. economy and the global supply chain, Sen. Cardin said. 

He added that officials are working on a replacement bridge so it can be reconstructed as quickly as possible.

Six construction workers were filling potholes on the bridge when the crash happened early Monday morning. They are all presumed dead. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones whose lives are never going to be the same," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday. 

Gov. Moore told Scripps News that he hopes to provide closure for the families that he's met with. 

"The thing that they reminded me of was these were individuals who left home that night to fix potholes," he said. "They had no idea that they would not make it home. That wasn't even a possibility. But the thing that the families also wanted to remind me is that these were brothers and these were sons and these were husbands who these families relied on. And I told them that we would be there for them as well."

Moore said dive crews were being used to help find the victims.

"We said we would put every resource available for the search and rescue, air, land and sea, to be able to try to find survivors," Moore said. "And now that we've transitioned into a recovery phase, I make the same promise that we are putting every resource that we have available to bring them a sense of closure."

Moore confirmed that some of the victims were from Mexico and Central American nations. 

"I can tell you as a son of an immigrant myself, I know that these are families who are working hard to fulfill a measurement of an American dream, and the power of their stories and of these individuals' commitments, it resonates deeply with me," he said.

NTSB now has data recorder

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into what caused the ship to crash into the bridge. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told Scripps News early Wednesday the Coast Guard had boarded the ship and taken its data recorder.

"It is at our lab right now," she said. "It will provide us with information to go into a timeline of events that occurred leading up to the bridge strike and immediately after. We hope to have that information available today to share with the public."

Homendy said it has not been confirmed whether the ship lost power before crashing into the bridge. 

"I want to look at the data ourselves," she said. "If a power outage occurred, it would be very difficult to maneuver the vessel and ensure safety."

She said officials could begin releasing some of the data obtained by the data recorder later today, but a full investigation could take years to conclude. 

SEE MORE: Meet the man who captured the Baltimore bridge collapse

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