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An inside look at Key Bridge salvage operation as cruise ships return to Baltimore

“Metal detecting on steroids” Inside look at Key Bridge salvage operation as cruise ships return
“Metal detecting on steroids” Inside look at Key Bridge salvage operation as cruise ships return 03:18

BALTIMORE -- For the first time since the Dali was successfully removed from the Key Bridge collapse site, WJZ toured the ongoing salvage operation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday for a look at the monumental progress made more than two months since the disaster.

Pieces of steel from the Key Bridge stick up above the waterline, and the process to remove them is complex.


"It's basically metal detection on steroids with a magnetometer to go down below and make sure we don't leave anything behind that we'll have to deal with later," said Col. Estee Pinchasin with the Corps and Unified Command. 

She showed us one of the largest pieces of the bridge that remains in the federal channel. 

Mike Hellgren

"At first, it was up and over the Dali, and as it sank down, we had a whole new problem set that we had to reanalyze," Pinchasin told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. 

She said large columns from the bridge will be removed by the state at a later date before the replacement bridge is built. 

Full width channel opening pushed back 

Pinchasin also said the re-opening of the full 700-foot-wide channel has been pushed back about a week—to June 8th to 10th.


She described the process of removing what is left in the water. 

"They're going to lower the diamond-wire saw where divers are going to dive it into place. Divers are going to go back up and they're going to cut through that bottom and separate those large sections," Pinchasin said. "We had to reassess that wreckage that was at the bottom of the river bed after the controlled demolition and also the removal of the Dali to finally have access to survey that area."

This has been a monumental week in the recovery process, with access to the Port of Baltimore largely restored.

WJZ obtained exclusive access earlier this week to the improvements at the port.     

Sparrows Point salvage operation

The Patapsco channel is now at a 50-foot depth but the width is 400 feet, enough for one way traffic for the largest vessels. The opening of the entire 700-foot channel will allow two-way traffic.

Pinchasin and her team showed us the salvage operation at Sparrows Point, with Chessie, the biggest crane here, at work lifting a massive section of the Key Bridge that was just removed from the water.


The Dali, the ship that caused the disaster, remains at Seagirt. 

Cruise ships return

The Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas is now docked at Baltimore's cruise terminal, the first cruise ship here in months. It departs on Saturday. On Sunday, the Carnival Pride departs from the terminal, another sign of the swift progress toward full recovery. 


But Pinchasin says her mission is not over. 

"We are not going to be leaving anything behind. We are not going to stop until the full channel is open," she told WJZ.

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