Baltimore bridge ship’s black box recovered as families of construction worker victims speak out

The black box can provide a timeline of the moments before the collision

Kelly Rissman
Thursday 28 March 2024 08:12 GMT
Man reversed car off Baltimore Key Bridge seconds before it collapsed

Questions around the Baltimore bridge’s collapse could soon be answered as the vessel’s black box has been recovered. Meanwhile, two missing members of the construction crew who were working on the bridge and went missing after its collapse have been identified.

The Dali container vessel rammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge at 1.30am on 26 March after it lost power, causing the bridge to dramatically collapse.

Mystery surrounds the cause of the incident, which threw members of a construction crew, who were refilling potholes on the bridge at the time, into the Patapsco River, authorities said.

But now details of the cause of the crash could become available.

The National Transportation Safety Board retrieved the Dali’s voyage data recorder, also known as its black box, the agency’s Jennifer Homendy said on Wednesday. It can provide a timeline of the run-up to the collision, give positioning information, and insights into what caused the power loss, she said.

Ms Homendy said they could have that information as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Workers continue to investigate and search for victims at the scene
Workers continue to investigate and search for victims at the scene (Getty)

Officials have labelled the crash an accident, saying no signs point toward terrorism.

While two survivors were pulled from the river hours after the dramatic collapse, six others were reported still missing.

Rescuers suspended their nearly full-day search for the missing individuals on Tuesday evening; the six missing men were presumed dead.

The six construction workers were all employed by contractor Brawner Builders, authorities said. Brawner Builders employee Jesus Campos told The Baltimore Banner that the missing individuals are all men in their thirties and forties, and all have spouses and children. “They are all hardworking, humble men,” he added.

Two of the missing men have since been identified: Miguel Luna, 49, and Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 38.

Miguel Luna, a father of three, is reported to have been lost when the bridge collapsed
Miguel Luna, a father of three, is reported to have been lost when the bridge collapsed (Supplied)

Their relatives have started speaking out.

Mr Luna, a father of three, is from El Salvador and had been living in Maryland for just under 20 years, according to a statement from the non-profit organisation Casa.

His wife, Maria del Carmen Castellon told Telemundo 44 that she and other family members of the missing men were able to gain access to the restricted disaster zone while they anxiously awaited news of their loved ones.

“They only tell us that we have to wait, that for now, they can’t give us information,” she said. “[We feel] devastated, devastated because our heart is broken, because we don’t know if they’ve rescued them yet. We’re just waiting to hear any news.”

One of Mr Luna’s children, Marvin Luna, told The Washington Post that he knew his father was working on the Key Bridge overnight but did not know it had collapsed until one of his friends called him up and said: “The bridge is… gone.”

Marvin then called his father’s phone, but there was no reply.

The Honduran deputy foreign affairs minister also confirmed to the Associated Press that Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval was among the missing men.

Mr Sandoval is from Honduras, and had been living in the United States for over 18 years. He is married and has two children.

His brother Martin, who lives in Honduras, told CNN that family members in Baltimore called him to tell him that his brother was missing.

Mr Sandoval was an entrepreneur who had started his own maintenance company, going to the US “in search of a better life”, his brother said.

Although Martin said that his family was holding on to hope that his brother could be found alive, they now just hope that his body could be recovered so they can give him a proper goodbye.

In an interview with Honduran newspaper La Prensa, Mr Suazo said in Spanish, “What we’re living is inexplicable. We wish it wasn’t real. We’re dismayed, especially the agony of not knowing when they’re going to find the body.”

The Honduran Embassy told Mr Suazo that it would work with him to bring his brother’s body back to the country for funeral arrangements.

Col Roland Butler Jr of Maryland State Police said at a Wednesday evening press conference that two victims had been trapped inside a red pickup truck on Wednesday morning.

They were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26.

Mr Butler didn’t specify where the two were from, but said that those presumed deceased are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, from Honduras, had come to America ‘in search of a better life’
Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, from Honduras, had come to America ‘in search of a better life’ (Supplied)

The four others missing have yet to be identified. Two of those are from Guatemala, the country’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a Tuesday statement, adding that one is believed to be 26-year-old from San Luis, Peten and the other is believed to be a 35-year-old from Camotan, Chiquimula.

The ministry did not name the two unaccounted-for workers, but told The Independent in a statement that it had been in contact with local authorities and the missing men’s families.

The Mexican Embassy also posted on Twitter/X saying that Mexican citizens were among the workers who fell into the river. The embassy did not give their names or say how many of the workers were from Mexico.

Mr Butler said on Wednesday evening that agencies were transitioning from a “recovery mode” to “salvage recovery operation.”

Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a Wednesday press conference that he grieved the loss of the six workers.

He added that if not for “the responders’ efforts, the mayday call, the maintenance closure that was already underway and the time of day of the impact, the loss of life might have been in the dozens”.

He said that he has received “clear direction from the president to tear down any barriers, bureaucratic as well as financial” that could get in the way of rebuilding the bridge as quickly as possible.

Joe Biden on Tuesday said he intends to rebuild the bridge entirely through the use of federal funds.

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