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Search efforts paused after 2 bodies found in Baltimore bridge collapse, focus turns to clearing debris

Team coverage: Search efforts paused after 2 bodies found in Baltimore bridge collapse, focus turns
Team coverage: Search efforts paused after 2 bodies found in Baltimore bridge collapse, focus turns 07:29

BALTIMORE -- The search for bodies was paused Wednesday as attention turned to clearing debris from the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and reopening the Port of Baltimore. 

The bodies of two construction workers were recovered from a submerged truck Wednesday. Four people remain missing and are presumed dead, but divers can no longer operate around the mangled bridge debris that has encased submerged vehicles, officials said.

The span was struck by a cargo ship that had lost power shortly after it left the Port of Baltimore early Tuesday morning.

The U.S. Navy said it is mobilizing barges outfitted with heavy lift cranes to help clear the Patapsco River of debris. Three cranes with varying lift capacities and support vessels are expected to begin removing submerged portions of the bridge, but it's unclear when they will arrive.

Reopening channel "essential" for port 

All vessel traffic in and out of the port was suspended in the wake of the collapse, but it has remained open for trucks.  

The Army Corps of Engineers will assist the salvage effort so that the Patapsco River's shipping lanes, the entry to the port, can reopen.

The port is the ninth busiest in the United States, according to Census data, and handled more than $80 billion in import-exports last year, the most in 20 years. It is also home to Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.

Directly, the port supports 15,300 jobs, while another 140,000 in the area are related to port activities. The jobs provide a combined $3.3 billion in personal income, according to a CBS News report

"The most urgent priority is to open the Port of Baltimore because it is essential to the livelihood of people here in Baltimore, in Maryland, and the economies across our country and around the world," U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a press conference Wednesday.

Maryland lawmakers are drafting emergency legislation for income replacement to assist thousands of Port of Baltimore workers impacted by the disruption. 

Four remain missing, presumed dead

Eight people, part of a construction crew filling potholes, were on the bridge at the time of the collapse. Two were rescued, two bodies have been recovered, and four remain missing. 

Two bodies recovered near Key Bridge collapse site 08:27

So far, three of the victims have been identified:

  • Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 35, originally from Honduras and who has been living in the U.S. for 20 years
  • Miguel Luna, originally from El Salvador
  • Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, originally from Guatemala 

The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed two of the missing men were from Guatemala, according to a Tuesday evening news release

Honduras' Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio García told The Associated Press a Honduran citizen was missing, and the Mexican Embassy in Washington said there were Mexicans among the six as well.

The men are in their 30s and 40s and have spouses and children in Dundalk and Highlandtown, the Baltimore Banner reports

Employer vows to help families

Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Hunt Valley-based general contractor Brawner Builders, told CBS MoneyWatch the workers had company-sponsored life insurance, but declined to disclose details regarding the policies. 

Brawner intends to offer financial assistance to the missing workers' families as they cope with the sudden loss of income, Pritzker said, without providing additional details on the company's plans.

"The company is doing everything possible to support the families and to counsel the families and to be with the families," Pritzker said.

Separately, a GoFundMe campaign is aiming to raise $60,000 to help their survivors. Organized by the Latino Racial Justice Circle, an advocacy group that fights racial injustice, it raised more than $98,000 as of Thursday morning. Brawner Builders is linking to the GoFundMe on its website, directing people who wish to support the families to the fundraising effort. 

Disaster in minutes

The National Transportation Safety Board said the Dali, the striking ship, left the terminal at the Port of Baltimore around 12:39 a.m. Tuesday.

By 1:24 a.m., alarms started going off that something was wrong. At 1:27 a.m., the pilot ordered crews to drop the anchor and called for tugs, telling officials the vessel lost power and was headed toward the bridge.

And just two minutes later, the massive cargo ship crashed into the bridge at 8 mph. 

The NTSB said police had just 90 seconds from when they received distress calls to cut the bridge off to traffic and to try to get people off.

A police officer patrolling because of the work on the bridge tried to get the construction workers off before it was too late, according to officials.

The ship was carrying 56 containers of corrosive, flammable material and batteries, some of which were breached, according to NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy. She said one of the hazardous materials, sheen, which is used in paint, had leaked into the Patapsco River. The environmental impact is still unclear. 

State, federal leaders give update on recovery of Key Bridge collapse victims 32:49

Replacing a critical bridge 

The Francis Scott Key Bridge crosses the Patapsco River and is the outermost of three toll crossings of Baltimore's Harbor and the final link in Interstate 695, which connects Baltimore and Washington, D.C. 

The bridge was completed in 1977 after the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel reached capacity and experienced heavy congestion almost daily, according to the MDTA. The 1.6-mile span was used by some 31,000 people per day and carried 11.5 million vehicles annually. 

Maryland submitted a request to the federal government for emergency relief funds to rebuild the Key Bridge and reopen the port, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Weidefeld said Wednesday. 

"We intend to receive some federal dollars quickly and then we will start with the design for the replacement of the bridge to the port and get the community back up and running," he said. 

President Biden said Wednesday that he intends to push the federal government to pay entirely for the replacement bridge, and pledged to work with Maryland leaders to provide as much support as possible.  

Senator Van Hollen said it was too early to put a price tag on the new bridge, but he called on Congress to work together to provide resources quickly. 

"This is an American challenge," Van Hollen said. "We are a great American city here in Baltimore. We are hoping all of our colleagues come together and join us in making sure we rebuild the bridge."

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