After a large highway bridge collapsed in the port of the US city of Baltimore, emergency services rescued two dead people from the water. The Maryland state police announced on Wednesday evening (local time) that divers had pulled the bodies of the 26 and 35-year-old men from a red pickup truck at a depth of seven meters. Sonar scans also showed that other vehicles were probably trapped under the rubble of the bridge under water. Meanwhile, it became known that there were large quantities of hazardous substances on board the damaged cargo ship that caused the bridge to collapse.

The approximately 290 meter long container ship “Dali” rammed a support pillar of the four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday night, causing the more than 2.5 kilometer long structure to collapse. According to Maryland Secretary of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld, eight construction workers were on the bridge repairing potholes at the time of the accident. Two of them were rescued on Tuesday. There has been no trace of the six others – who, according to police, come from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

According to the immigrant organization Casa, one of the missing people is the construction worker Miguel Luna from El Salvador. The father of three children went to work on Monday evening and did not come home. His wife, Maria del Carmen Castellon, told Telemundo 44 that she was “devastated” by the uncertainty.

The dead that have now been found are two of these missing construction workers, as the Washington Post reported, citing their employer. The authorities assume that the other missing people are also dead and their bodies cannot be recovered for the time being. “We have exhausted all search efforts in the area surrounding this scene,” Roland Butler of the Maryland State Police said Wednesday evening. The use of sonar technology showed that other vehicles that had fallen into the water were surrounded by rubble and concrete and were therefore inaccessible. The conditions in the water around the huge pieces of rubble are now so dangerous that divers can no longer move there safely. Instead, the debris should first be removed before divers attempt to recover the suspected remaining bodies.

The Coast Guard stopped the “active search” for survivors on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, divers and ships were used again to find the bodies of six construction workers who went missing after the accident.

The ship’s crew had made an emergency call before the collision, which probably saved lives – because officers on land stopped the traffic and prevented more cars from getting onto the bridge. Nevertheless, large parts of the bridge collapsed.

In the hours after the accident, emergency services initially concentrated on searching for survivors. However, intensive investigations into the cause of the accident have now begun. Representatives of the US agency responsible for transport safety, the NTSB, boarded the freighter for the first time on Wednesday. Head of the authority Jennifer Homendy presented the first details of the investigation in the evening (local time).

Investigators secured, among other things, the so-called ship data recorder. This is particularly important for researching the cause. According to the recordings, crew members reported shortly before the collision that the freighter had power problems and was no longer propulsive. How this came about is still unclear.

According to Homendy, there were 23 crew members on board the freighter at the time of the accident. The ship’s cargo included 56 containers with dangerous materials, such as corrosive or flammable substances – weighing a total of 764 tons. Some of the dangerous goods containers were damaged.

Homendy emphasized that information would be collected first; conclusions and assessments about the cause of the accident would only be made later. The investigation is a “massive undertaking” that is likely to take many months. A first preliminary report should be presented in two to four weeks.

The bridge, built in 1976, was in “satisfactory condition” before the accident, Homendy said. The last basic inspection took place in May 2023. However, the bridge is constructed in such a way that the failure of a critical component could cause complete or partial collapse. Today, other methods of building bridges would be preferred.

As part of the national artery Interstate 695, the Francis Scott Key Bridge spanned the port of the east coast metropolis of Baltimore. Homendy said on average more than 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge per day.