2 people rescued, several missing after ship strike triggers Baltimore bridge collapse

Ship hits Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse.  The Baltimore Fire Department called the collapse a 'developing mass casualty event'.

By Landon Mion , Anders Hagstrom , Stephen Sorace | Fox News

The Francis Scott Key Bridge along I-695 in Maryland collapsed into the Baltimore harbor following a "ship strike" early Tuesday morning, setting off a search and rescue mission for those inside vehicles that plunged into the chilly waters.

A livestream of the bridge appeared to show a cargo ship colliding with a support beam, causing the bridge to break apart and fall into the Patapsco River. Multiple vehicles were on the bridge at the time, but no update on casualties has been offered.

Eight individuals related to a construction crew that was doing routine work filling potholes on the bridge fell into the water, Paul Wiedefeld, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, told reporters. Six of these members were unaccounted for, while two were rescued. One of the rescued members was in the hospital, while the other refused treatment.

The FBI was on scene investigating what caused the ship to ram into the bridge and said it was not linked to terrorism. 

When asked whether the ship lost power before striking the bridge, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said that the ship's crew alerted authorities about a power issue before the impact.

Wiedefeld confirmed there were people on the bridge at the time, though no specific numbers were immediately provided. A construction crew of unknown size was also doing routine maintenance at the time of the collapse.

Officials are continuing to respond to the catastrophic collapse as an active search and rescue mission, with the U.S. Coast Guard searching for any survivors in the water.

The water below the bridge is about 50 feet deep, and the water temperature was about 47 degrees during the predawn collapse.

Emergency crews including the U.S. Coast Guard, local first responders and the FBI were searching for people believed to be in the water, Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department, told The Associated Press around 3 a.m. Officials have described this as a mass casualty event.

"Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people," Cartwright said.

There was a crew of 22 onboard the Singapore-flagged container vessel Dali. (Baltimore Fire Rescue 1).

Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace said at least two people were pulled from the water following the collapse, with one of them in serious condition.

Wallace said authorities "may be looking for upwards of seven people" but he said that number could change.

The cargo ship that hit the bridge was the Dali, a 95,000 GT Singapore-flagged container ship, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore confirmed. There were 22 crew members onboard at the time of the incident.

The Synergy Group, a Singapore-based company that manages the ship, said in a statement that two pilots piloting the ship through the harbor and all crew members onboard were accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries. The group also said that no pollution has been reported.

The large vessel appeared to catch fire before becoming disabled. Footage of the incident shows the lights going out multiple times on the vessel in question prior to impact, suggesting the collision may have been due to a power failure.

The Maryland Transportation Authority said on social media that all lanes are closed in both directions and that traffic is being detoured. Later, it urged drivers to avoid the I-695 southeast corridor and to instead use I-95 or I-895.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a major span over the Patapsco River in Baltimore, collapsed after it was struck by a large cargo ship on Tuesday, prompting a massive emergency response for multiple people in the water. (Jasper Colt-USA Today).

A White House official says they're actively monitoring the situation but have so far observed "no indication of any nefarious intent," according to ABC News.

"Our hearts go out to the families of those who remain missing as a result of this horrific incident," the White House said in a statement.

Mayor Brandon M. Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. confirmed emergency personnel were responding and rescue efforts were underway.

Cartwright said agencies received 911 calls around 1:30 a.m. that a vessel traveling from Baltimore had struck the bridge, causing it to collapse. 

"This is a dire emergency," Cartwright added.

The collapse comes just two days after the 47-year anniversary of the bridge's construction, which was completed  on March 24, 1977.

He said there are "some cargo or retainers hanging from the bridge" acting as hazards that are creating potentially unsafe and unstable conditions. Emergency responders are operating cautiously as a result.

"[At] 1:35 a.m., Baltimore City police were notified of a partial bridge collapse, with workers possibly in the water, at the Francis Scott Key Bridge," a spokesperson for Baltimore Police said in a statement to Fox News.

The FBI says it has agents at the scene working alongside first responders.

Multiple emergency crews are on the scene assessing the damage and investigating the cause, Fox Baltimore reported.

As of 2:45 a.m., all live camera feeds for the bridge, along I-695, on the Maryland Transportation Authority website are offline.

The iconic bridge is named after Francis Scott Key, who authored the American National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." It opened in 1977.

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