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Key Bridge collapse investigation focuses on cargo ship Dali's circuit breakers, electrical system

Key Bridge collapse investigation turns to electrical issues with Dali
Key Bridge collapse investigation turns to electrical issues with Dali 03:30

BALTIMORE -- The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board told several members of Congress Wednesday morning that her team remains in Baltimore investigating the Key Bridge collapse, and they are focusing on the electrical system of the Dali, the cargo ship that slammed into the bridge two weeks ago. 

"We have had the manufacturer of equipment in the engine room to look closely at the electrical power system. We're continuing to look at that. We've asked for additional assistance from the manufacturer who returned from overseas this week with experts to look at the circuit breakers," NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told lawmakers. 

Closer inspection of Dali's power system

Homendy identified Hyundai as the manufacturer of the ship's power and brake system. 

"This is technology that exists on the vessel. It is components on the vessel, so we do need the expertise of Hyundai to help us in getting that information. Can we have outside experts as part of that? Yes. We have the internal expertise as well, but we do need to get the manufacturer who has come here to assist us both with the circuit breakers and the electrical power system, so we are working together."

Interviews with ship's crew

She said interviews are continuing and listed the people who have already spoken to federal investigators. 

"The pilots, second officer on watch, master on bridge, chief engineer, third assistant engineer, the helmsman, the bosun, the chief officer who was off watch, second officer, second officer who conducted pre-departure checks, second assistant engineer, electrician, oiler and three members of the U.S. Coast Guard watch at the command center, and tug boat operators," Homendy said.

Homendy said experts with more than 400 years' worth of expertise are helping to determine what caused the crash.

Closer look at Key Bridge's design

"In addition to that, our office of highway safety team is really focused on pier protection, looking at the original bridge design and how it would be built today, under today's standards," Chair Homendy said. 

She noted the agency asked the U.S. Coast Guard in the 1970s and 1980s to look at the types of vessels, cargo, volume, and pier protection but the agency said they did not have the authority to do so. 

"There's still action that needs to look frankly at how shipping has changed, how transportation has changed in our waterways, the types of vessels that we are seeing," Homendy said. "…If I were a state and the Department of Transportation, that's what I would be looking at now. Are these bridges protected for the type of traffic that is going through now?"

Request for more investigators

She says she has the resources she needs to complete the investigation, but she would like the NTSB to be able to hire four more marine investigators and asked lawmakers for more resources.

"We have such an important safety mission—and investing in that mission," Homendy said. "I don't care about me. I care about the six workers on that bridge,  their families. I care about our investigators. I care when there's not a backup to them, and they're on duty 24/7, 365 days. That is what we invest in. We are an investment in safety."

Preliminary bridge collapse report expected in weeks

Homendy said she expects the preliminary report on the collapse to be released by the first week of May. 

"We are still on scene collecting information. We have a lot of work ahead. There is a lot we've learned," Homendy said. 

She told lawmakers the voyage data recorder has been recovered and is being reviewed in the NTSB lab. 

"Our role is to determine what happened and what can be done to prevent it happening again, and we are still on scene on the vessel," Chair Homendy said. 

Governor Wes Moore and the Unified Command provided an update on the salvage and recovery efforts Wednesday afternoon.

Progress removing containers from the Dali 

Governor Moore said 34 containers have been moved from the bow of the Dali out of more than 4,700 containers on the ship. He said the goal is to remove 178 of them in order to refloat the Dali. 

"That work is complicated and that work is dangerous because just one empty container that's sitting on the vessel can have a weight of more than one and a half tons," the governor said. 

Removing bridge debris from river's floor 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told WJZ some of the Patapsco River floor will have to be dredged to remove pieces of the bridge embedded in the mud. 

"They've actually created a gap by creating a hole in order to lower a bucket to be able to dig out the roadway and the debris that's laying on top of the bottom part of a truss," Col. Estee Pinchasin said.

Col. Pinchasin said responders are cutting a 240-foot span of the Key Bridge that weighs 1,500 tons into several pieces in order to remove them.

"We're not going to rush to failure. We are going to take the time to make sure we get the engineering right," she said. 

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows more than one million people in the greater Baltimore area will be affected by the disaster. 

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