Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapses after column hit by large ship; vehicles, people in water

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed early Tuesday after a column was hit by a large container ship, sending vehicles and people into the Patapsco River, authorities said.

Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace told reporters Tuesday morning the scene was “an active search and rescue.”

“We may be looking for upwards of seven individuals, that’s the latest information we have.” He said the search was being conducted on and in the water and on the ship’s deck.

He said sonar has detected vehicles in the river.

Wallace said at least two people have been rescued from the water — one wasn’t hurt and one was in “very serious” condition.

He added that the ship’s crew was still on board.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency, saying in a statement that “we are working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration. We are thankful for the brave men and women who are carrying out efforts to rescue those involved and pray for everyone’s safety.”

A view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after it collapsed, in Baltimore
A view of the portion of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed, in Baltimore, on March 26, 2024.HARFORD COUNTY, MARYLAND FIRE & EMS / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Earlier, the fire department told CBS News that at about 1:30 a.m., 911 calls started coming in saying a vessel had hit a bridge column. It was unclear how many vehicles were on the span but “there was surely a large tractor-trailer” on it. 

The department’s communications director, Kevin Cartwright, described the collapse as “a mass casualty event.” He told The Associated Press it was a “dire emergency” and some cargo was apparently dangling from the bridge.

The department said on its scanner that there was lots of diesel fuel in the water around the ship and that there were construction workers on the bridge pouring concrete at the time. Wallace said it wasn’t clear how much fuel was in the water.

NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center said the river water was 48 degrees overnight.

Map showing location of Key Bridge in Baltimore
YASIN DEMIRCI/ANADOLU VIA GETTY IMAGES

The MidAtlantic Coast Guard told CBS News the 948-foot Singapore-flagged cargo ship Dali had struck the bridge. It was apparently en route from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

Reuters reports that the ship’s owner, Synergy Marine Group, said the cause of the collision wasn’t known but all crew members were accounted for and there were no reports of any injuries to any of them. 

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said on social media that, “I’m aware of and en route to the incident at the Key Bridge. … Emergency personnel are on scene, and efforts are underway.” He told reporters at the morning briefing the collapse was “an unthinkable tragedy.”

US Maryland Bridge Collapse
The vessel Zhen Hua 13, carrying four giant shipping cranes for delivery and installation at the Port of Baltimore, passes under the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in June 2012. PATRICK SEMANSKY / AP

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said on social media that, “Rescue efforts are underway. Please pray for those impacted.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete  Buttigieg said on social media that he’s “spoken with Gov. Moore and Mayor Scott to offer USDOT’s support following the vessel strike and collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge. Rescue efforts remain underway and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.”

The Maryland Transportation Authority said all lanes were closed in both directions for an incident on I-695 Key Bridge and later posted that traffic was being detoured to I-95 and I-895.

The Patapsco River, which the bridge crossed, is a key waterway that serves with the Port of Baltimore as a hub for East Coast shipping. CBS News Baltimore reports that the 1.6-mile span was used by some 31,000 people a day and was four lanes wide.

The bridge was named after the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was opened in 1977.