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Dundalk community stepping up for family of worker killed in Baltimore bridge collapse

Family, friends of man lost in Key Bridge collapse remember his "good heart"
Family, friends of man lost in Key Bridge collapse remember his "good heart" 02:10

BALTIMORE --  Four construction workers are still missing and presumed dead after they fell into the Patapsco River when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed Tuesday.

One of the missing bridge workers was identified as 35-year-old José Lopez.

WJZ's Alexus Davila spoke exclusively with José Lopez's wife, Isabel Franco and a family friend, Lilly Ordoñez.

They were honest about the pain and desperation they feel with Lopez's body still being in the water.

But they are choosing to remain hopeful and remember him as the happy and goofy man he was.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday, Franco got the devastating call. She said Lopez was in a concrete mixer truck early Tuesday morning when the 985-foot cargo ship, Dali, slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

She said Lopez came from Guatemala 19 years ago. They have a young daughter together, but she said he became a loving father figure to her other two children immediately.

"He had a good heart," Franco said in Spanish. "He was a hard worker. He was always worried about his family too. He died but he was fighting for us always."

Lilly Ordoñez owns a Puerto Rican restaurant called Owl's Corner Cafe in Dundalk.

Franco started working for Ordoñez in January of this year as a helper in the kitchen. They quickly became close and when Ordoñez heard what happened she rushed to Franco's side.

"He was a very sweet person," Ordoñez said as she reflected on all the times she interacted with Lopez. " I can definitely see the love he had for her and vice versa."

Franco said on Tuesday night, detectives laid out sheets on a table in front of her. It was an overview of the search strategy with aerial maps and images of helicopters deployed.

But there was no translator present, so she couldn't understand the updates. Rather, her friends had to translate any updates they saw from our news coverage.

Franco said no local, state or national leader has reached out to her.

So community members, like Frank Ambrosino with Epic Church Baltimore, decided to band together and create an online fundraiser to pay her bills for six months. 

The GoFundMe, which had a $25,000 goal, has received over $32,000 in donations as of Friday morning. 

Franco said Lopez's income was the family's main source of survival.

"To see how they react during times like this, it's a very patriotic community," Ambrosino said. 

"My messages are blowing up asking me what they can do for Isabel," Ordoñez said. "What they can do for the kids. What they can do to help. They have been offering food, they have been offering so many help that I am overwhelmed. I am very happy I chose Dundalk to be part of my life."

Ordoñez and Ambrosino are hoping others will continue to donate because now they want to use the remaining money to help the five other victims' families who are experiencing the same pain.

"I'm very touched knowing that we forgot about colors," Ordoñez said. "We forgot about status. You know we all are coming together and grieving the same pain."

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