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Rapid Response: Search and rescue operations underway in Md. bridge collapse

Divers from multiple agencies are using sonar and infrared technology in the search for survivors

APTOPIX Maryland Bridge Collapse

A container ship rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Pasadena, Md. The ship rammed into the major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to collapse in a matter of seconds and creating a terrifying scene as several vehicles plunged into the chilly river below. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Mark Schiefelbein/AP

What happened

At about 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday, March 25, a 950-foot-long cargo ship, leaving the port of Baltimore, impacted one of the central stanchions supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Video shows the moments leading up to the crash and resulting bridge collapse.

Much of the 1-mile long “Key Bridge” now rests in the Patapsco River entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. This crossing is the singular access into the port of Baltimore, the ninth busiest cargo and cruise port in the United States.

The Baltimore City Fire Department established command and has been leading press conferences throughout the day. The fire chief reports the possibility of at least 20 vehicles on the bridge at the time of the collapse, along with seven workers conducting routine maintenance.

The fire chief reported that rescue divers from multiple agencies are using sonar and infrared technology in the search for survivors. Air assets are also being utilized to search the area.

State and federal law enforcement officials have advised that there is no indication of anything nefarious at this point; however, a full investigation is already underway. In the full video, the ship appears to lose all power multiple times before striking the bridge.

Why it’s important

The Key Bridge – carrying I-695 traffic – is a critical connection point in Baltimore. Over 12 million vehicles use the road annually. The waterway is the main entry point to the port of Baltimore, which is now completely blocked.

Rescue workers are working through cold and extremely dangerous conditions of the mangled bridge infrastructure, amongst cars and trucks that were seen in videos prior to the collapse. The fire chief reported at least one rescued worker from the water, who refused medical transport and one additional rescued individual who was transported to an area hospital.

What’s next?

Baltimore City Fire Department officials will continue to work with all of the local state and federal partners as the situation unfolds. We will continue to watch reports and follow the rescue stories as they occur.

Chief Marc S. Bashoor joined the Lexipol team in 2018, serving as the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. With 40 years in emergency services, Chief Bashoor previously served as public safety director in Highlands County, Florida; as chief of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire/EMS Department; and as emergency manager in Mineral County, West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a National Pro-board certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III and Fire Instructor. Connect with Chief Bashoor at on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have a leadership tip or incident you’d like to discuss? Send the chief an email.