Sunday, 19 May 2024

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Baltimore bridge collapse: power outages caused the ship’s engine to stall before the crash

Baltimore bridge collapse: power outages caused the ship's engine to stall before the crash

The cargo ship Dali experienced electrical blackouts about 10 hours before leaving the Port of Baltimore and yet again shortly before it slammed into the Francis Key Bridge and killed six construction workers, federal investigators said Tuesday, providing the most detailed account yet of the tragedy.

The power outage occurred after a crewmember mistakenly closed an exhaust damper, causing the ship’s engine to stall, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said in their preliminary report. Shortly after leaving Baltimore early on March 26, the ship crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns because another power outage caused it to lose steering and propulsion at the exact worst moment.

The report provides new details about how the ship’s crew addressed the power issues it experienced while still docked in Baltimore. A full investigation could take a year or more, according to the safety board.

Testing of the ship’s fuel did not reveal any concerns related to its quality, according to the report.

The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, laden with shipping containers and enough supplies for a monthlong voyage.

After the initial blackout caused by the closed exhaust damper, investigators say a backup generator automatically came on. It continued to run for a short period—until insufficient fuel pressure caused it to kick off again, resulting in a second blackout. That’s when crewmembers made changes to the ship’s electrical configuration, switching from one transformer and breaker system it had been using for several months to another that was in use upon its departure, according to the report.

Investigators stopped short of drawing a direct line between those earlier power issues and the blackout that ultimately caused the bridge collapse.

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

The safety board launched its investigation almost immediately after the collapse, which sent six members of a roadwork crew plunging to their deaths. Investigators boarded the ship to document the scene and collect evidence, including the vessel’s data recorder and information from its engine room, according to board chair Jennifer Homendy. Investigators also interviewed the captain and crew members.

“Our mission is to determine why something…

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