Explosives break up Key Bridge section atop Dali, readying to refloat vessel

There was a booming noise, several plumes of smoke and then a splash as millions of pounds of Francis Scott Key Bridge debris fell into the Patapsco River Monday evening.

Crews had previously placed linear shaped charges — explosive cutting devices — on the large piece of bridge that has sat on the front of the Dali, the ship that knocked the bridge down, since the collision on March 26. When detonated Monday, the small explosives sliced the steel into chunks that tumbled into the water.

From nearby Fort Armistead Park, members of the media heard the loud, baritone explosion and observed several simultaneous puffs of smoke. The entire detonation lasted less than 10 seconds.

The 984-foot ship is expected to remain in the river for roughly two more days as it is surveyed. It will then be tugged to the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal.

The 21-member crew remained on board, sheltered in place as the explosives were detonated, officials said.

The removal of what officials referred to as Section 4 of the bridge marked a milestone in what has been a massive recovery and salvage operation launched after the catastrophe, which killed six construction workers who were repairing potholes on the span. It was just last week that divers recovered the body of the last victim.

Salvage workers prepared the bridge section for what Key Bridge Unified Command characterized as a surgically precise operation. They analyzed where to install the small explosives, sliced into the steel beams of the truss, dropped in the charges and then encased them with wrapping similar to large pieces of tape.

The controlled explosion was initially scheduled for Saturday, but delayed when weather affected the preparations. On Sunday afternoon, it was postponed again to the following day. It took place Monday evening to coincide with low tide, and the eventual refloating of the vessel was expected in roughly two days during a high tide.

Anyone within 2,000 yards of the blast site, which included a few businesses on Hawkins Point, was asked to wear ear protection against the sound, which officials compared to a fireworks display or thunder.

Crews previously removed containers and rearranged items on the Dali so that once the ship was relieved of the 8-million to 12-million pound section pinning it down, it would remain stable.

With the bridge section broken into more manageable chunks, cranes will later hoist them out of the water to be hauled away.

Crews need to inspect the Dali in the Patapsco River, as well as the surrounding wreckage and the riverbed. Additionally, crews will seek to continue to avoid damage to a BG&E pipeline, which was purged of its gas, and an old water main beneath the riverbed near the ship.

Exactly when the ship will be make the 2-nautical mile journey, likely with the help of tugboats, back to the Port of Baltimore is unknown.

An email obtained late last week by The Baltimore Sun from an attorney representing the ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and its manager, Synergy Marine, told those who have made claims against the companies and want to inspect the ship that the National Transportation Safety Board was expected on board Tuesday and Wednesday. The NTSB and the FBI are among the federal and state agencies investigating the bridge collapse.

The email told claimants they would be allowed on board starting May 20, but that was before the blasting operation was postponed to Sunday and then Monday.

Baltimore City has filed a claim against the shipping companies, saying they should be held fully liable for the collapse. Additionally, an Essex-based publisher filed suit, claiming the incident has caused it and other companies a loss of business.

While the removal of the section that had been on the Dali marks a major point in the salvage mission, work continues on clearing the federal channel to fully restore ship traffic to the port, one of the East Coast’s busiest.

Temporary channels have allowed some ships to enter and leave the port, but the Army Corps of Engineers expects to reopen the permanent 700-foot wide, 50-foot deep channel by the end of this month.

For now, the waters that the Key Bridge once spanned remain a salvage site, with huge cranes and other equipment clearing some 50,000 tons of steel and concrete wreckage.

Replacing the bridge is expected to take close to $2 billion and just over four years. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who will seek re-election this fall, has promised that the federal government will foot the entire bill.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top