Two blackouts may have caused freighter to hit Baltimore bridge, a federal investigation reveals

The first electrical outage occurred approximately 10 hours before leaving the port due to the accidental closing of an escape hatch.

Federal investigators in charge of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse case reported that the container ship that crashed into the Baltimore structure suffered two power outages: one before leaving port and another just before the collision with the structure.

According to the preliminary report provided this Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the first power outage occurred approximately 10 hours before departure from the port of Baltimore. This outage was due to a crew member accidentally closing an escape hatch, causing the ship's engine to stop.

The ship's senior captain and apprentice, en route from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, were not informed about the previous day's power outage. Shortly after leaving port in the early hours of March 26, the vessel experienced a new blackout, resulting in it losing its course.

Path of the Dali ship that crashed into a bridge in Baltimore
(AFP)

After the first electrical incident, the crew elected to change the transformer and circuit breaker system they had been using for several months to another system that was active at the time of departure.

According to the preliminary report, this second blackout occurred at 1:25 a.m., when a main electrical circuit breaker powering most of the ship's equipment and lights was unexpectedly activated. This resulted in the ship losing power and shutting down the main propulsion diesel engine.

Although the crew managed to restore power, they requested assistance from the tugboats while the senior pilot ordered the ship to anchor as a precaution.

However, a second electrical failure occurred shortly after, which ultimately led to the ship colliding with the bridge. During this last blackout, the crew was able to broadcast a maritime radio communication to alert traffic in the area, allowing traffic to be stopped. Unfortunately, there was not enough warning to save six workers who were repairing potholes on the bridge at the time.

The NTSB clarified that it is still investigating the electrical configuration after the first blackout at the port and its possible impact on subsequent events. The full NTSB investigation is expected to take over a year. Meanwhile, the FBI is also conducting a criminal investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragic accident.