House committee holds hearing on Baltimore bridge collapse

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The head of the National Transportation Safety Board and several other government officials are set to speak before a House committee Wednesday morning about the federal response to the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in March.The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing at 10 a.m. ET will feature four witnesses: NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Gautier, Army Corps of Engineers Major Gen. William H. Graham and Federal Highway Administration Administrator Shailen Bhatt.The hearing comes a day after the NTSB released a 24-page preliminary report detailing investigators’ early factual findings on the March 26 disaster, when the massive cargo ship Dali smashed into the bridge. The collision brought down the 1.6-mile long steel structure, killed six construction workers on the bridge and severed access to critical shipping routes in and out of the Port of Baltimore.The report found the Dali was just three ships’ lengths from the bridge when it suffered a pair of catastrophic electrical failures, which caused several pumps required for the ship’s propeller and rudder to stop working. The emergency generator activated but was not configured to power the ship, the report said.The report also found that the Dali had experienced two blackouts a day earlier while still moored in the port.“The NTSB is still investigating the electrical configuration following the first in-port blackout and potential impacts on the events during the accident voyage,” the report states.Video below: Police bodycam footage shows response to Key Bridge collapseAn NTSB preliminary report does not conclude a probable cause. Those findings will be part of a final report that could take investigators up to two years to complete.The report notes several areas that are still being investigated, including “the design and operation of the Dali’s power distribution system (including its breakers).”Video footage from moments before the crash showed plumes of black smoke coming from the 213-million pound vessel as well as the lights flickering on and off.Six construction workers who were filling potholes on the bridge were killed in the disaster. The victims were immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras who worked to support their families.The NTSB report also details the near-catastrophic experiences of a crew member on the ship and a road maintenance inspector on the bridge. The crew member was on the bow of the ship at the time of the crash. “(He) told investigators that, as he was releasing the brake on the port anchor, he had to escape from the falling bridge before he was able to reapply the brake,” the report states.The inspector on the bridge had been walking the span when the ship struck. “He ran north and made it to the nearest surviving span before the rest of the bridge collapsed,” the report states.Officials have vowed to rebuild the bridge – but the exact cost remains unclear. A spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute has estimated the bridge alone could be worth more than $1.2 billion. President Joe Biden has said he’s committed to helping rebuild the bridge as soon as possible and said the federal government will bear the costs.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board and several other government officials are set to speak before a House committee Wednesday morning about the federal response to the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in March.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing at 10 a.m. ET will feature four witnesses: NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Gautier, Army Corps of Engineers Major Gen. William H. Graham and Federal Highway Administration Administrator Shailen Bhatt.

The hearing comes a day after the NTSB released a 24-page preliminary report detailing investigators’ early factual findings on the March 26 disaster, when the massive cargo ship Dali smashed into the bridge. The collision brought down the 1.6-mile long steel structure, killed six construction workers on the bridge and severed access to critical shipping routes in and out of the Port of Baltimore.

The report found the Dali was just three ships’ lengths from the bridge when it suffered a pair of catastrophic electrical failures, which caused several pumps required for the ship’s propeller and rudder to stop working. The emergency generator activated but was not configured to power the ship, the report said.

The report also found that the Dali had experienced two blackouts a day earlier while still moored in the port.

“The NTSB is still investigating the electrical configuration following the first in-port blackout and potential impacts on the events during the accident voyage,” the report states.

Video below: Police bodycam footage shows response to Key Bridge collapse

An NTSB preliminary report does not conclude a probable cause. Those findings will be part of a final report that could take investigators up to two years to complete.

The report notes several areas that are still being investigated, including “the design and operation of the Dali’s power distribution system (including its breakers).”

Video footage from moments before the crash showed plumes of black smoke coming from the 213-million pound vessel as well as the lights flickering on and off.

Six construction workers who were filling potholes on the bridge were killed in the disaster. The victims were immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras who worked to support their families.

The NTSB report also details the near-catastrophic experiences of a crew member on the ship and a road maintenance inspector on the bridge.

The crew member was on the bow of the ship at the time of the crash. “(He) told investigators that, as he was releasing the brake on the port anchor, he had to escape from the falling bridge before he was able to reapply the brake,” the report states.

The inspector on the bridge had been walking the span when the ship struck. “He ran north and made it to the nearest surviving span before the rest of the bridge collapsed,” the report states.

Officials have vowed to rebuild the bridge – but the exact cost remains unclear. A spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute has estimated the bridge alone could be worth more than $1.2 billion. President Joe Biden has said he’s committed to helping rebuild the bridge as soon as possible and said the federal government will bear the costs.

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