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FBI launches probe into Baltimore bridge collapse — reports

April 15, 2024

The FBI is investigating the Dali cargo ship that rammed into Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26. The probe will focus on whether the crew knew the vessel had serious issues.

Dali cargo ship rammed into steel frame of collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, US on March 26
Entities such as the owner and operator of the Dali cargo ship, along with others, could be held criminally liable for the deadly bridge collapse in BaltimoreImage: Jim Watson/AFP

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse of a bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, US media reported on Monday.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on March 26. Six construction workers fell to their deaths in the incident, with divers later recovering three bodies from the wreckage.

What is the FBI investigation about?

The FBI said on Monday that it had boarded the Dali cargo ship, which rammed into the bridge leading to its collapse, to conduct court-authorized law enforcement activity regarding the crash.

Its investigation will focus on whether the crew of the Dali left the port knowing the ship had serious problems with its systems, The Washington Post reported.

Safety investigators have recovered the ship's black box.

Also on Monday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced a partnership with two law firms to "launch legal action to hold the wrongdoers responsible."

He said Baltimore "will take decisive action to hold responsible all entities accountable for the Key Bridge tragedy, including the owner, charterer, manager/operator,  and the manufacturer of the M/V Dali, as well as any other potentially liable third parties."

Last week, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennier Homendy said investigators were focusing on the ship's electrical power system, as it experienced power issues shortly before the crash.

The Dali was involved in an incident in Belgium's Antwerp port, when it hit a quay as it tried to exit a container terminal.

A June 2023 inspection carried out in San Antonio, Chile, found the ship had propulsion and auxiliary machinery issues, according to the Equasis shipping database.

According to Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority, the vessel passed foreign-port inspections in June and September.

Aerial view of Dali ship rammed into collapsed Baltimore bridge
The Dali cargo ship left Baltimore's port early on March 26 and was headed for Sri lankaImage: Maxar Technologies/AP/picture alliance

Why did the Baltimore bridge collapse?

The Dali cargo ship left Baltimore's port early on March 26 and was headed for Colombo, Sri Lanka. It struck one of the bridge's support columns causing it to collapse into the Patapsco River that runs through central Maryland.

At the time of the crash, the Dali was carrying a crew of 21 and two pilots.

Replacing the bridge will likely take years. Authorities have opened two temporary channels to allow some vessels two move around the damaged cargo ship.

Work to clear the wreckage and restore traffic through Baltimore's shipping channel continues.

sdi/wd (AP, Reuters)