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Baltimore Key Bridge Collapse | Ship Collision

Key Bridge in Baltimore Collapses after Ship Strike - Several Injured, Others Missing

3/26/24 BLASZKOW LEGAL, PLLC March 26, 2024

BALTIMORE, MD, 3/26/24 - The Dali, a large container shipped, registered (flagged) in Singapore, struck a support pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge (part of I-695) in Baltimore, Maryland at about 1:20 a.m. this morning. After striking the pillar, parts of the bridge began to collapse, and is it's structural integrity was comprised, the entire structure crashed into the river below.

The collapse of bridge onto the ship started a fire on board the container ship, which was extinguished.

Numerous vehicles were on the bridge as it collapsed, including a sizeable work crew doing either roadway or bridge maintenance. Video of the incident, captured on StreamTime LIVE, shows the work crew's vehicles stationed on the large bridge span, clearly identified by the flashing amber lights. This company has now been identified as Brawner Builders.

The Mayor of Baltimore as well as the Governor of Maryland have declared states of emergency. Fire and Rescue personnel from numerous departments responded to, and remain on the scene of the event, which has been classified as a Mass Casualty Incident, or MCI. Additionally, the US Coast Guard deployed four rescue boats and helicopters to the scene.

An initial report from Synergy Marine Group (which owns the Dali) stated that the ship was crewed by 22 mariners, and also had 2 pilots on the ship at the time of the collision. A pilot is a mariner specifically trained to navigate a ship in a dangerous or treacherous stretch of water, such as a port. It is not known if the pilots worked for the port authority, or a private entity.

Synergy is reported to own a fleet of 400 ships, and is reputed to employ over 14,000 people internationally.

No official statement has been released as to the cause of the collision. However, extended video leading up to the collision does suggest that the ship appears to have lost power twice (evidenced by the loss of it's lights for several seconds).

Initial reports from Baltimore Fire Department officials stated that two people had been rescued from the water, one in "critical condition." However, another report purported to be from Baltimore Shock Trauma suggested that "several patients" involved in the collapse had been admitted.

At the time of publication, Maryland officials have stated that "at least 6 people are missing."

Blaszkow Legal's attorneys and staff pray for the safety of those missing, and the speedy recovery of all those involved.

Video Credit: Steamtime LIVE, Baltimore, Md.

Personal Injury Claims Arising Out of a Ship Collision With a Bridge

Incidents involving ships and vehicles are thankfully rare, because they represent two very distinct modes of transportation: cars being on roads, and ships being upon the water. However, collisions between ships and bridges lead to a horrific meeting of the two, with tragic consequences for unsuspecting vehicles on the roadways going over those bridges.

When a ship strikes a bridge, called a "Allison" (collision between a ship and a fixed object), many people can suffer a variety of tragic injuries, as people are thrown about depending upon the facts of the collision.. in certain recorded collisions, the impact of the ship into a bridge pylon or pillar as caused vehicles to strike one another on the road surface. Unfortunately, in worst case scenarios, such as the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, the collapse of the entire bridge structure causes vehicles to strike not only fixed objects and other vehicles, but also to plummet into the water as the bridge itself collapses.

How to Pursue a Personal Injury Claim after a Bridge Collapse

Someone who has been hurt in the collapse of a bridge that has been struck by a ship is going to become embroiled in an extremely complicated legal process, that will by no means be short or easy. This is regardless of whether a person's injuries are modest, catastrophic, or worse. The reason that such claims are automatically going to be so complicated is due to several factors:

  • Multiple parties, companies, and entities may have been negligent

  • Jurisdiction is going to be Federal (Article III of the Constitution extends federal judicial power to "all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction")

  • There are going to be multiple claimants (people who have been injured)

  • There are also going to be claims by the State/federal government, for lost and damaged property

Investigating the Case

A horrific incident such as a ship striking a bridge is going to involve extensive civil investigation, completely apart and aside from any investigation done by the police, the Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, and other regulatory agencies. Civil investigations include not merely the determination of who individually was responsible, but also for determining the identity of all corporate entities, both foreign and domestic, upon whose behalf certain individuals were, or may have been, acting.

Most people know that ocean going ships are commanded by a Captain. This captain is responsible for everything that happens on the ship, whether he or she is awake. A captain is always deemed to be in command of the vessel. However, when a large ship, and even smaller ships, are navigating unique, or otherwise complicated waterways, often there is a pilot on board.

The word pilot does not suggest someone from the airline industry, but rather a specific kind of mariner whose job is to be an expert on a small section of waterway, or one that is complicated, such as the Port of Baltimore. In the case of the Dali, two pilots were aboard at the time of the collision. Pilots work for companies that provide this service, in contract to the port authority, or sometimes work directly for government entities, such as the Port Authority, state, or a Department of Transportation.

In an incident such as the collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge, we have to determine exactly what was happening in the operation of that ship. Did the pilot make a mistake? Or did something happen that was completely outside of the control of the captain, and/or the pilot? Was there some sort of mechanical issue or failure in the engine room? All of these questions have to be answered, in excruciating detail, to figure out exactly what happened to cause such a tragic late night incident.

The videos of the Dali's collision with the Key Bridge suggest that the ship lost power at least twice, as evidenced by the loss of the lights on slowed-down videos. This triggers other questions: how did this happen? Was there not an emergency generator? Was the ship inspected properly?

Investigating a tragic case as this one requires a tremendous investment in time and is very complicated.

Worker's Compensation Claims vs Personal Injury Claims: Those Injured May Have Both!

The tragic events of the collapse of the Key Bridge show that a work crew was going about their tasks as the bridge collapsed. It is not known if those workers were with a private company, or directly employed by the State of Maryland.

If you are hurt at work, while in the performance of your job duties, you are able to file a Workers Compensation claim with your employer by providing your employer notice, usually through filling paperwork. If your injuries are caused through no one's negligence, or the negligence of an employee with your company, then your sole remedy is that workers compensation claim.

However, if your injuries were caused by the negligence of a third party, that is someone not an employee of your own business/company, you are also entitled to pursue a third-party negligence claim against the at-fault person or persons (or companies). These cases work in isolation of one another, because while negligence is not a factor in workers comp cases, it is in a third-party liability case.

In these instances, the injured worker's treatment will be directed and overseen by the workers compensation carrier.

In the unfortunate event of a wrongful death claim, the family of the decedent has the right to pursue such a claim against the negligent parties.

Speak to an Attorney right away

If you or a loved one have been hurt in the tragic events of the Key Bridge collapse, you need to speak to an experienced attorney right away. Do not speak to the press, nor any insurance company. Regulatory agencies may want to take your statement, but it is extremely important that you be represented by counsel. While it is difficult to conceive how someone could try to use your words against you, that is exactly what insurance companies for multi-national companies do for a living. You have to protect yourself, always.

Call Blaszkow Legal if you have any questions: fighting for the injured in Maryland, DC, and Virginia! 703-879-5910

Note: When creating these blog posts, our team of writers utilizes external sources, including local and state news sources, social media platforms, police accident incident reports, state police accident reports, and at times, eyewitness accounts. Please contact us immediately if you discover any incorrect information so that we can update the post with the most current, accurate information available.

Disclaimer: None of the information provided in this blog post should be interpreted as medical or legal advice. If you have been injured in an accident, seek immediate medical attention, and speak to an attorney immediately!