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Ship towed behind collapsing Baltimore Bridge, crew still on board

American news


The ship that caused the deadly Baltimore Bridge collapse has finally been removed and towed back to port, but the 21 crew members who have been trapped for 55 days cannot yet leave the ship.

As part of a huge team effort, the massive freighter Dali was refloated and moved away from the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Monday morning.

The bridge collapsed on March 26 after the ship struck one of the support columns, killing six construction workers who were filling holes in the bridge overnight.

The Dali’s 21 crew – all from India, apart from one man from Sri Lanka, the cargo ship’s intended destination – have not been able to leave the ship since the disaster, including when the bridge collapsed last week.

The FBI is investigating the crash. Getty Images
The Dali freighter was recovered from the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Monday. Unknown via Storyful

U.S. maritime regulations require that a ship in any state must have a minimum occupancy at all times and that the machinery on board be in operation at all times so that there are crew members who can respond if there is a problem, such as a fire.

The seafarer’s U.S. visas are also believed to have expired while they were stuck in port, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“At some point we will work with the authorities to see if we can get shore leave for them. Our ultimate goal is to get the crew off the ship so they can return to their families,” Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Synergy Marine Group, which manages the ship, told the newspaper.

He also added that it is a “relief for all of us” that the Dali ship has finally been brought to port.

In April, the FBI had seized all of the crew members’ phones as part of their investigation, but none have been returned. Although the crew received replacement phones, Wilson said they do not have access to their original data.

Officials have said the crew has been busy maintaining the ship and assisting investigators trying to determine how the crash occurred over the past nearly eight weeks.

Extensive damage to the ship’s bow was visible on Monday as the ship was moved away from the disaster site by several tugboats.

Its removal comes after explosives were used on May 13 to demolish the largest remaining portions of the collapsed bridge, a vital roadway in Baltimore while the bridge, under which the ill-fated boat had been trapped for months, stood.

The ship’s 21 crew members have not been allowed to leave in the eight weeks since the collapse. Getty Images

Officials said the hulking ship, still loaded with cargo, would travel at a speed of about 1 mile per hour on the roughly 4-mile journey back to port.

It will take several weeks to make temporary repairs before moving to a shipyard for more substantial repairs.

To get the ship afloat again, crews released anchors and pumped out more than 1 million gallons of water that had grounded the ship in the weeks after the collision, while cleanup crews began working on the complicated site. Dive teams were then called in to confirm that the path to remove the ship was clear.

The bridge crash occurred after the cargo ship experienced two power outages about 10 hours before it left the port of Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka, federal investigators announced last week.

The first power outage occurred after a crew member accidentally closed an exhaust muffler while performing maintenance, causing one of the ship’s diesel engines to shut down, National Transportation Safety Board investigators said.

Another power outage then caused the ship to lose steering and propulsion power as it left Baltimore early March 26, causing the ship to crash into one of the bridge’s supporting columns and collapse.

The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances leading to the crash.

Officials plan to reopen the port’s 50-foot-deep channel in late May, but until then, crews have built a temporary channel that is slightly shallower.

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