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Bridge Disaster in Baltimore Gets FBI Criminal Investigation

Bridge Disaster in Baltimore Gets FBI Criminal Investigation
The Dali container vessel after striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland on April 4.

The US has opened a criminal investigation into what occurred on a cargo ship before it crashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge and caused it to collapse last month, according to a person familiar with the probe. 

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents early Monday boarded the Singapore-flagged container ship, which remains disabled on the Patapsco River, the bureau said in a statement.

“The FBI is present aboard the cargo ship Dali conducting court authorized law enforcement activity,” the FBI said. “There is no other public information available and we will have no further comment.”

The Dali lost power and struck the bridge on March 26, killing six workers doing repairs on the span and bringing a halt to cargo traffic at the Port of Baltimore, where shipments of coal, cars and other goods have been disrupted. The container ship and workers on it have remained in place since.

The criminal investigation is examining what kind of failures occurred on the ship, the circumstances leading up to the crash and whether any federal laws may have been broken, according to the person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified speaking about information that isn’t public.

Attorneys representing the Singapore-based ship owner, Grace Ocean Ptd Ltd., earlier this month filed a petition jointly with Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., which was operating the ship. They claim the collapse of the bridge was “not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care” of the companies and that they shouldn’t be held liable for any loss or damage from the disaster.

But if they are held liable, it shouldn’t be for more than the current value of the ship and its cargo, which has fallen from as much as $90 million to $43,670,000, according to the filing in federal court in Maryland.

The attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the FBI probe.

The investigation was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

Federal investigators looking into what caused the crash are homing in on the vessel’s electrical system, US National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said on April 10. The safety board is continuing to investigate and examine data on the ship’s electronic power system and circuit breakers, she said in testimony before a Senate panel.

The US attorney for Maryland, Erek Barron, said his office seeks to hold accountable those responsible for wrongdoing.

“My office generally will not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment about investigations,” Barron said in a statement. “However, the public should know, whether it’s gun violence, civil rights abuse, financial fraud, or any other threat to public safety or property, we will seek accountability for anyone who may be responsible.”

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  • Steve Davidson says:

    What should actually happen is that the city of Baltimore should be investigated to find how on earth they – or the port’s authority – could allow as crucial a bridge as this was allowed to be completely and utterly unprotected in as important a harbour as this one. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the ship’s owners and the relatives of the workers that were killed sue THEM for total and utter stupidity!

  • Keith Mackie says:

    Vide Steve Davidson’s comment earlier this morning:
    Back in 1970 or thereabouts, there was a similar incident between ship and bridge in Hobart, Tasmania. There was no forewarning of this incident and a number of cars went over the open ends with a number of fatalities.
    For other reasons I was corresponding with the Port Engineer at this time and asked about the incident. The Aussies don’t waste time, they get on with their enquiries. In his comment on the incident, he remarked that, at the enquiry, the skipper of the ship gave evidence that it was not his ship that brought down the bridge, it was the pesky bridge that sank his ship! Apparently the judge in his wisdom took note of this comment.

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