The container ship Dali crashed into a Key Bridge support, collapsing most of the bridge. Photo: Baltimore City Fire Dept. Rescue 1 team

Several People Missing in Patapsco River after Key Bridge Collapses in Ship Strike

An unprecedented disaster has shaken the Chesapeake Bay region as a ship leaving the Port of Baltimore struck the Key Bridge, which spans the Patapsco River, and caused nearly the entire bridge to collapse.

As of noon on Tuesday, two people who were on the bridge have been rescued and six more are unaccounted for.

It happened around 1 a.m. Tuesday. In a livestream from the Port of Baltimore on YouTube, you can see the lights appear to go off on the container ship Dali as the 984-foot-long ship headed for one of the bridge supports. At the moment of impact, most of the bridge is seen crumbling into the water below.

This livestream at the Port of Baltimore shows the events leading up to the collapse and the moment it crashed into the water. Editing & captions by Capt. Bobby LaPin for Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

On Tuesday morning Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said there were seven workers known to be on the bridge at the time of its collapse. The workers were contracted by the Maryland Transportation Administration (MDTA) to do some concrete deck repairs. Later in the morning, Maryland Governor Wes Moore said there were a total of eight workers. Two were taken to the hospital and one has already been released. The other six are still missing.

A Bay Pilot was at the controls of the Dali, as pilots move ships in and out of Baltimore due to their skill and familiarity with local waters.

According to, the Singapore-flagged Dali had arrived at the Port of Baltimore from Norfolk’s Virginia International Gateway terminal two days earlier and was leaving the Patapsco again when tragedy struck.

Gov. Moore confirmed that the crew of the ship notified authorities of a power outage. As it approached the bridge at 8 knots, toll operators were able to stop traffic from coming onto the bridge. Gov. Moore said, “I’m thankful for the folks that, once the warning came up that there was a mayday, by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge … these people are heroes. They saved lives last night.”

Officials stopped traffic flow to the Key Bridge just before it was struck by a container ship and collapsed, likely saving many lives. Photo: Baltimore City Fire Dept. Rescue 1 Team

By stopping the flow of traffic, Gov. Moore said, “The thing we do know is that many of the vehicles were stopped before they went onto the bridge.” State officials indicated that all possible casualties were likely contracted workers, rather than vehicle traffic.

Search and rescue crews have been working around the clock to look for survivors. Local fire departments and the Coast Guard have boats and divers in the water. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Erin Palmer, Acting Chief of Response for Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, said, “USCG’s primary mission is search and rescue, looking for any survivors in the water.”

The water is about 50 feet deep in that area, Wiedefeld said. The Coast Guard deployed three small boats, the USCG Cutter Mako, an 87-foot patrol boat, and a helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City.

Vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore is suspended, though the Port is open to truck traffic and work at the port continues. Ships are being held outside the port approaches. The Maryland Port Administration said in a statement, “At this time we do not know how long vessel traffic will be suspended. As soon as that is determined we will provide an update. Until then please keep those involved in your prayers.”

Gov. Moore has declared a State of Emergency for Maryland quickly following the collapse.

Expressing support for those involved in the disaster, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce acknowledged that the loss of the Key Bridge will have a significant impact on local business in addition to a likely ripple effect on international shipping.

“While the focus remains on the human impacts, the Francis Scott Key Bridge is a critical transportation artery for our state,” the Chamber of Commerce said. “Its extended closure will inevitably disrupt commercial activities and supply chains. Understanding the monumental task ahead to recover from this tragedy and restore this vital transportation link, we urge all residents and businesses to exercise patience and make the necessary long-term adjustments to their daily routines, travel and operations.”  

In a statement, the Port of Virginia said the Dali’s call and departure from Norfolk were without incident. The port says it’s already working with ships who were scheduled to call at the Port of Baltimore to help them offload in Norfolk instead.

“The Port of Virginia has significant experience handling surges of import and export cargo and is ready to provide whatever assistance we can to the team at the Port of Baltimore,” the Port of Virginia said.

Wiedefeld said the FBI is investigating, as it does with any type of incident like this to determine if it is connected to terrorism; He says at this time there is no evidence the incident was intentional.

Chesapeake Bay Magazine will continue to monitor and update the unfolding story.