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Mayday call & plunge into pitch darkness…Ship’s black box reveals minute-by-minute details of Baltimore bridge disaster

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THE black box recovered from the Dali cargo ship sheds new light on the final moments before the vessel crashed into the Baltimore Bridge.

The retrieved data recorder revealed that the pilot of the ship had frantically tried to swing the ship away from the Francis Scott Key Bridge by dropping the anchor.

The Dali cargo ship crashed into the iconic bridge on Tuesday

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The Dali cargo ship crashed into the iconic bridge on TuesdayCredit: Getty
Data from the ship's black box reveals a pilot tried to steer the ship away from the bridge by dropping the anchor

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Data from the ship’s black box reveals a pilot tried to steer the ship away from the bridge by dropping the anchorCredit: AP
The crash sent the Francis Scott Key Bridge plunging into the water

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The crash sent the Francis Scott Key Bridge plunging into the waterCredit: EPA
Pieces of the bridge can be seen sticking out of the water

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Pieces of the bridge can be seen sticking out of the waterCredit: Getty

The crew of the MV Dali sent a mayday call after losing power informing authorities it was heading towards the bridge.

Speaking at a news conference today, officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB ) said one of the Dali’s pilots had radioed for tugboat help and reported a power loss minutes before the disaster.

The ship had one minute and three seconds of darkness following the power failure – but it was enough for the vessel to crash into the structure.

Data from the ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR) shows the 95,000-tonne container ship rammed into the iconic bridge sending it plunging down the Patapsco River within seconds – here’s the timeline of how the tragedy unfolded.

READ MORE ON BALTIMORE BRIDGE

TIMELINE OF THE DISASTER

The Singapore-registered ship left the Baltimore port at 00.39am on Tuesday, heading on its 27-day voyage to Sri Lanka.

At 01.07 it entered the Fort McHenry Channel.

Around 1.25 am alarms sounded signalling there was trouble on board and just a minute later steering commands and rudder orders were issued.

At 1.26 am and 39 seconds, a pilot made a general radio call for nearby tug boats.

The NTSB said that around the same time, data from the Maryland Transportation Authority shows the pilot association dispatcher called the transportation authority’s officer on duty about the blackout.

Just after 1.27am, the pilot commanded the ship to drop an anchor on the left side of the ship and issued added steering commands.

But about 20 seconds later the pilot issued a radio call reporting that the Dali had lost all power approaching the bridge.

Timeline of the Baltimore Bridge disaster

US authorities were able to piece together a timeline of the tragedy from the Dali ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR)

  • 00:39 – The Dali cargo ship leaves the Baltimore port
  • 01:07 – The ship enters the Fort McHenry Channel
  • 01:24:59 – Alarms sounded on the ships indicating a problem
  • 01.26 – Steering commands and rudder orders are issued
  • 01:26:39 – Pilot makes a general call for tug boats
  • 01:27:04 – Pilot orders to drop the port anchor
  • 01:27:25 – The pilot reports the vessel has lost all power and was heading towards the bridge
  • 01:29:00 The ship’s audio records the collision of the bridge
  • 01:29:39 – Pilot reports the bridge is down 

At about that time, the state transportation officer on duty radioed two of its units already stationed at each end of the bridge saying to close the bridge.

The ship was travelling at about 8mph when at 1.29, recordings picked up the sounds of the collision with the bridge.

A Transportation Authority dash camera also shows lights on the bridge going out.

At 1.29am and 39 seconds, the pilot reported to the Coast Guard that the bridge was down.

The US coastguard said the cargo ship underwent routine engine maintenance in port before it sailed.

Six construction workers filling potholes on the bridge at the time of the collision are presumed dead – with the bodies of two men being pulled from the river on Wednesday.

The victims were identified as Alejandro Fuentes, 35, from Mexico, and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, from Guatemala.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said addressed their families in Spanish during the news conference, saying, Estamos contigo, ahora y siempre, which means, we are with you, now and always.

Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent of Maryland State Police said all search efforts have been exhausted.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said officials boarded the ship to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to interview the captain and other crew members.

She said twenty-three people, including two pilots, were on the ship when it crashed.

She added the vessel was carrying 56 containers with hazardous material including highly flammable chemicals and lithium ion batteries.

It comes as a port worker claimed that the 95,000-tonne container ship had suffered a “severe electrical problem” while docked at the Port of Baltimore, days before the crash.

Julie Mitchell, co-administrator of Container Royalty said the Dali which was anchored at the port for two days before the crash had “serious power outages.”

In the wake of the disaster, she told CNN: “And those two days, they were having serious power outages… they had a severe electrical problem. It was total power failure, loss of engine power, everything.”

She added that refrigerated boxes, were tripping the breakers and mechanics were actually trying to fix it.

Meanwhile, investigators will examine the possibility the power outage on the ship could have been caused by “dirty fuel.”

The aftermath of the bridge collapse into the river

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The aftermath of the bridge collapse into the riverCredit: EPA
Footage shows the Deli cargo ship approaching the Bridge

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Footage shows the Deli cargo ship approaching the BridgeCredit: X/YWNReporter
Smoke can be seen billowing from the vessel before the crash

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Smoke can be seen billowing from the vessel before the crashCredit: X/YWNReporter

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