ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'This was preventable': Ship had 'electrical issues' in port before hitting US bridge

Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 1:10pm
The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that is focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed, a person familiar with the matter says. Photo / AP
The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that is focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed, a person familiar with the matter says. Photo / AP

'This was preventable': Ship had 'electrical issues' in port before hitting US bridge

Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 1:10pm

The massive container ship that caused the deadly collapse of a Baltimore bridge experienced apparent electrical issues before it left port but set out anyway, a person with knowledge of the situation said on Monday, hours after the FBI said it was investigating whether any laws might have been broken.  

The Dali left Baltimore’s port early on March 26 laden with cargo destined for Sri Lanka when it struck one of the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s supports, causing the span to collapse into the Patapsco River and sending six members of a roadwork crew plummeting to their deaths. Three of their bodies have been recovered. 

The Dali experienced apparent electrical issues before leaving port, according to someone with knowledge of the situation. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said alarms went off on the ship’s refrigerated containers while it was still docked in Baltimore, probably indicating an inconsistent power supply. 

The ship’s crew were aware of the issues and indicated they would be addressed, the person said. 

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials have said their investigation will include an inquiry into whether the ship experienced power issues before starting its voyage. 

NTSB chairman Jennifer Homendy said last week the investigation was focused on the ship’s electrical system generally. The ship experienced power issues moments before the crash, as is evident in videos that show its lights going out and coming back on. 

Homendy said information gleaned from the vessel’s voyage data recorder was relatively basic, “so that information in the engine room will help us tremendously”. 

The FBI said on Monday it was conducting a criminal investigation into the bridge collapse that was focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed, according to another person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge that is focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed. Photo / APThe FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge that is focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed. Photo / AP 

Mayor vows ‘decisive action’ 

FBI agents were aboard the cargo ship on Monday conducting court-authorised law enforcement activity, the agency said. It didn’t elaborate and said it wouldn’t comment further on the investigation, which was first reported by the Washington Post. 

Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott issued a statement on Monday announcing a partnership with two law firms to “launch legal action to hold the wrongdoers responsible” and mitigate harm to the people of Baltimore. He said the city needed to act quickly to protect its interests. 

Scott said the city “will take decisive action to hold responsible all entities accountable for the Key Bridge tragedy”, including the owner, operator and manufacturer of the cargo ship Dali, which began its journey about half an hour before losing power and veering off course. 

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, both of Singapore. Danish shipping giant Maersk chartered the Dali. 

Synergy and Grace Ocean filed a court petition soon after the collapse seeking to limit their legal liability — a routine procedure for cases litigated under US maritime law. Their joint filing seeks to cap the companies’ liability at roughly US$43.6 million ($73.9m). It estimates the vessel itself is valued at up to US$90m and was owed over US$1.1m in income from freight. The estimate also deducts two major expenses: at least US$28m in repair costs and at least US$19.5m in salvage costs. 

“Due to the magnitude of the incident, there are various government agencies conducting investigations in which we are fully participating,” Synergy spokesman Darrell Wilson said on Monday. “Out of respect for these investigations and any future legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.” 

The companies filed their petition under a provision of an 1851 maritime law that allows them to seek to limit their liability to the value of the vessel’s remains after a casualty. 

FBI agents boarding the cargo ship Dali in Baltomore on Monday. Photo / APFBI agents boarding the cargo ship Dali in Baltomore on Monday. Photo / AP 

Lawyers for some of the victims and a worker who survived the collapse argued on Monday that the companies that own and manage the ship were taking advantage of an “archaic law” in attempting to protect their assets. 

“Imagine telling that to grieving families … while they’re planning a funeral, the owner of the boat is in court,” lawyer L. Chris Stewart said during a news conference in Baltimore. 

The road crew “absolutely had zero warning” in the moments before the collapse, Stewart said, even though a last-minute mayday call from the ship’s pilot allowed nearby police officers to stop traffic from trying to cross the span. Three of the workers’ bodies are still missing, as crews continue the dangerous work of removing massive chunks of steel from the river. 

Julio Cervantes, who survived falling from the bridge, narrowly escaped drowning by rolling down his work vehicle’s window and fighting through the frigid water despite being unable to swim, lawyers said. He clung to debris until he was rescued. 

“This was all preventable,” Stewart said. “That is why we were brought in to investigate and find out what has happened and give these families a voice.” 

The investigations come amid concerns about the safety of thousands of US bridges, and days after more than two dozen river barges broke loose and struck a closed span in Pittsburgh. 

-Eric Tucker, Lea Skene, Sarah Brumfield, AP 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you