Local perspective of bridge collapse in Baltimore

Reporter: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

A terrifying and devastating incident occurred in Baltimore early Tuesday morning when a cargo ship collided with one of the supports of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The impact caused the roadway to break apart in several places, leading to a portion of it plunging into the Patapsco River just before 1:30 a.m. local time.

According to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, the accident involved eight individuals.

Two people have been rescued, with one unhurt and the other rushed to the hospital in serious condition. However, six people remain unaccounted for.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, which opened in 1977, serves as a crucial link in the area’s infrastructure, particularly for shipping on the East Coast.

CBS News reported that the bridge had passed inspection in May 2022, but there was concern with one of its columns. The reinforced concrete column, similar to the one hit by the ship, had been downgraded from a health index rating of 77.8 to 65.9.

This tragic event brings to mind the collapse of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg in May 1980, where 35 people died and several vehicles fell 150 feet into the water after a ship’s radar was knocked out, causing it to veer into support of the bridge.

Locally, the Sanibel Causeway, built in 2007, was last inspected on November 28, 2023, and received a health index rating of over 90 on the scale.

Locals remember that during the storm, the causeway broke into pieces and left the little island in ruins. 

On October 19, 2022, just three weeks after Ian, the causeway was restored. 

In an interview with Florida Gulf Coast University structural engineer professor Ashraf Badir, the expert expressed concern for the victims of the bridge collapse and compared it to past disasters like the Skyway collapse and even the 9/11 attacks.

Badir explained that the impact of a fully loaded container ship caused the bridge pillar to fail, leading to the collapse.

Badir emphasized that bridges are designed for various loading impacts but that such a huge impact is challenging to mitigate. 

The expert suggested local navigation protocols could help prevent similar incidents in the future.

The investigation, Badir said, will likely focus on why the bridge failed, which he believes is due to the large impact.

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