End of an era in Baltimore after bridge collapse leaves residents in disbelief

End of an era in Baltimore after bridge collapse leaves residents in disbelief

On the banks of the Patapsco river, hundreds of people from across Baltimore gather in the early evening sun.

Most are taking pictures with their mobile phones and can’t quite fathom what they are seeing. The Francis Scott Key bridge, a fixture of this city for half a century, had been destroyed in less than ten seconds.

Through the day, they had watched the pictures on television and seen the CCTV of the cargo ship hitting one of the bridge’s support pillars, collapsing the whole structure almost immediately. But many felt they needed to witness it for themselves.

“It’s unreal,” one woman said, “I actually can’t believe it is true, that it’s gone.”

Many of those who live on the banks of the river had been woken by the noise of the impact just before 1.30am. Jim Wood’s house overlooks the Key Bridge.

“The house shook a little bit,” he told me, “at first I thought it was a sonic boom from an airplane, I’ve never heard a sound quite like it, it lasted for six to ten seconds, and then, it was just indescribable.”

In the distance, a rib boat with flashing red lights circled the wreckage of the container ship and a rescue helicopter circled above. But as night fell, 18 hours after the collapse, any hope of finding survivors was officially extinguished.

Authorities declared this no longer a search and rescue operation. It is now the job of specialist divers to recover the bodies of the six people still missing, all of whom were working overnight on the bridge to repair potholes.

But with dangerous debris in the water, coupled with changing tides, it could take some time to complete.

Among those missing is Miguel Luna from El Salvador. At his house, a family member told me they are distraught as they wait for news.

Some of them were taken by police to a location in Baltimore where they could be with the other families of the missing. All of those unaccounted for worked for Brawner Builders.