A container ship lost power and rammed into a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday morning, causing it to snap and plunge into the river below.

Officials said that six people, who were part of a construction crew fixing potholes on the bridge, are still unaccounted for. All six have been presumed dead, but the search for them resumed Wednesday morning.

What You Need To Know

  • A container ship lost power and rammed into a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to snap and plunge into the river below

  • Six workers who were on the bridge at the time repairing potholes are presumed dead, officials said; the search and recovery mission resumed Wednesday morning

  • Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said that the ship was able to issue a "mayday" call before the crash which allowed authorities to limit traffic on the bridge

  • President Joe Biden said Tuesday that it was his "intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge," and that it's his expectation that Congress will "support that effort;" he pledged to visit Baltimore "as quickly as I can"

Divers returned to the site early Wednesday after challenging overnight conditions improved. Maryland State Police spokesperson Elena Russo said in a text message that “recovery efforts are underway.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy says investigators expect to have more information Wednesday on the timeline of events after information from a ship data recorder was sent to an agency lab.

"This morning, our state is in shock," said Maryland Gov. Wes Moore at a press conference on Tuesday, who added that the preliminary investigation into the incident "points to an accident."

"To the people of Baltimore, and each and every one of the 6.3 million Marylanders who call our state home, I recognize that many of us are hurting right now," the governor said. "I recognize that many of us are scared right now, so I want to be very clear about where everything stands. We're still investigating what happened, but we are quickly gathering details."

"The preliminary investigation points to an accident," Moore continued. "We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack."

The cargo ship crashed into one of the bridge's supports, causing the structure to snap and buckle at several points and tumble into the water in a matter of seconds — a shocking spectacle that was captured on video and posted on social media. The vessel caught fire, and thick, black smoke billowed out of it.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld told reporters Tuesday that eight people were on the bridge at the time of the incident. Six are still unaccounted for and now presumed dead. Rescuers pulled two people out of the water. One person was treated at a hospital and discharged hours later. The other person did not go to the hospital. 

A senior executive at the company that employed the construction workers said Tuesday afternoon that they were presumed dead, given the water’s depth and the length of time since the crash.

Jeffrey Pritzker, executive vice president of Brawner Builders, said the crew was working in the middle of the bridge when it came apart. No bodies have been recovered.

“This was so completely unforeseen,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers. But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse.”

Moore told reporters that the nearly 50-year-old bridge, which was built in 1977 was "fully up to code" at the time of the accident. He also noted that the ship was able to issue a "mayday" call before the crash which allowed authorities to stop traffic from going on the bridge.

"I have to say, I'm thankful for the folks who ... once the notification came up that there was a mayday who literally by being able to stop cars from coming off the bridge, these people are heroes, they saved lives last night," Moore said.

Moore pledged that they would rebuild the bridge, but would not offer a timeline for the project, saying that they are currently focused on search and rescue. He also would not give an update on the impact to shipping at the Port of Baltimore, which suspended shipping traffic in the aftermath of the incident.

"This is going to be a longer-term build," Moore vowed. "It's going to be a build that's going to acquire every facet and every aspect of our society. It is something that I can tell you, we are going to get this done. We are going to make sure that this is not just rebuilt, but that we are going to rebuild in a way that remembers the people who his tragedy had impacted, and also do it in a way that honors the community that it serves, but right now, I could not give you any more investment on timing or cost right now."

In the meantime, authorities are working on alternate routes for commuters. Wiedefeld said that "roughly about 35,000 people in a day" use the bridge, with approximately double that amount using the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and even more using the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Officials are looking into travel alternatives for those who take the bridge, while authorities will be dispatched to the two tunnels to deal with any issues that arise from increased congestion.

Speaking from the White House on Tuesday before his trip to North Carolina later in the afternoon, President Joe Biden vowed to the people of Baltimore that the federal government will support them "for as long as it takes," pledging that he will visit the city "as quickly as I can."

"Like the governor said, you're Maryland tough, you're Baltimore strong and we'll get through this together," he said.

The president said it was his "intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge," and that it's his expectation that Congress will "support that effort." When asked by a reporter if the company who owns the ship should bear the cost of rebuilding the bridge, Biden replied, "We're not going to wait. We're going to pay for it to get the bridge rebuilt and open."

Biden said he told Gov. Moore and other city and county officials that "we're going to spend all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency — I mean, all the federal resources — and we're going to rebuild that port together."  

"Everything so far indicates that this was a terrible accident," Biden said, echoing what Gov. Moore said earlier in the day. "At this time, we have no other indication, no other reason to believe of any intentional act here. Personnel onboard the ship are able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they lost control of their vessel ... as a result, local authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic before the bridge was struck, which undoubtedly saved lives."

"Our prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible accident and all the families, especially those waiting for the news of their loved one right now," Biden continued. "I know every minute in that circumstance feels like a lifetime, you just don't know. It's just terrible. We're incredibly grateful for the brave rescuers who immediately rushed to the scene."

Biden said search and rescue is their "top priority" and the Army Corps of Engineers will lead the effort to clear the channel so the Port of Baltimore can resume operations.

"The Port of Baltimore is one of the nation's largest shipping hubs," the president said, adding, "It handles a record amount of cargo last year. It's also [one of] the top ports in America, both imports and exports of automobiles and light trucks, around 850,000 vehicles go through that port every single year. And we're going to get it up and running again as soon as possible. Fifteen thousand jobs depend on that port, and we're gonna do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers."

Last year, the Port of Baltimore handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo worth $80 billion, according to the state. In addition to cargo, more than than 444,000 passengers cruised out of the port in 2023.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin called it crucial to get the port reopened to minimize the impact to the state's economy.

"It affects many, many jobs ... not only jobs here in Maryland, but around the country and world," Cardin said at a briefing Tuesday. So our next priority is make sure we get that channel opened and then we also need to fix and replace the bridge for the surface transportation."

The president said that he communicated to Maryland's governor that "I'm directing my team move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as you humanly possible, and we're going to work hand in hand to support Maryland, whatever they asked for, we're going to work with our partners in Congress to make sure the state gets the support it needs."

"We're not leaving until this job gets done," he pledged.

Synergy Marine Group — which manages the ship, called the Dali — confirmed the vessel hit a pillar of the bridge at about 1:30 a.m. while in control of one or more pilots, who are local specialists who help navigate vessels safely into ports. The ship is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd.

Synergy said all crew members and the two pilots on board were accounted for, and there were no reports of any injuries.

The ship was moving at 8 knots, roughly 9 mph, the governor said. 

"I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact from a vessel of this size," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters at a briefing Tuesday.

Jagged remnants of the bridge could be seen jutting up from the water's surface. The on-ramp ended abruptly where the span once began.

The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic. The container ship is about 985 feet long and about 157 feet wide, according to the website.

Danish shipping giant Maersk said it had chartered the vessel. No Maersk crew and personnel were on board. The collapse caused Maersk share at the Nasdaq Copenhagen to plummet 2% in early Tuesday trading.