Ship Crew From Baltimore Bridge Collapse Still Stuck On Board Without Their Phones

Almost two months after the crash that killed six construction workers, 21 men are trapped without access to family.

byJosé Rodríguez Jr|
Ship Crew From Baltimore Bridge Collapse Still Stuck On Board Without Their Phones
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Share

0

A crew of 21 men has been stuck for seven weeks aboard the cargo ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore without access to their personal phones, and without the ability to easily contact family members back home. The FBI confiscated crew members' phones following the accident that led to the deaths of six construction workers on the early morning of March 26. The Dali's crew members have yet to recover their personal phones and are also facing an uncertain future, according to the BBC. The crew member's work visas are either nearing their expiration date or will expire soon, given the long time the recovery effort has taken.

The ship's crew incurred no casualties when the Dali collided with the bridge in Baltimore, but the accident threw seven construction workers into the Patapsco River. The trauma from the fall and the onset of hypothermia from exposure to cold waters caused the deaths of six men who had been repairing potholes on the bridge when the Dali struck one of its support columns, per the Baltimore Sun. The remaining construction worker who fell into the river was discharged from the hospital in the days following the crash.

The Dali's crew was told to remain aboard the ship during the investigation of the crash, which is still ongoing. Investigators with the FBI seized the crew members' phones shortly after the collision. The crew were given replacement SIM cards along with burner phones but their private data, which includes contact info for family members and other essentials—such as banking applications—is missing from the temporary phones.

Given our reliance on modern devices, which we tend to treat like extensions of our brains and offload sensitive data onto for the sake of convenience, the ship's crew members have been left without access to family and friends for whom they lack contact info. So, it's understandable that the crew would want their phones back but it's unclear when the investigation will conclude, meaning they're stuck with the burners for now. This has put crew members in duress as they're unable to send money back home or otherwise handle their financial responsibilities while at sea.

The 21-person crew hails mostly from India with 20 of the men being from the South Asian country, as the BBC reports. Only one of the sailors is not from India, coming from Sri Lanka, which is where the Dali was headed when it set sail out of the Port of Baltimore. The ship's 27-day journey to Colombo, Sri Lanka, was cut short by the crash. Preliminary reports from the NTSB say the crash was caused by a power outage aboard the Dali, which disabled the cargo ship.

The crew was unable to steer clear of the bridge's support column due to the blackout; the ship had suffered three outages prior to the last one that led to the crash, but the Associated Press cites maritime experts who say the crew did all it could to respond to the multiple power outages. Still, the sailors worry that they may be held criminally responsible for the crash due to their presence aboard the cargo ship. This adds further distress because crew members are struggling to contact family members. Complicating matters even further are issues with some of the crew's work visas expiring, which the sailors worry will affect their future employment. Their time aboard the ship has extended from the expected time frame of about a month to nearly double that time.

Overall, it's a bad situation to be in without easy access to family and friends. Maritime unions representing the sailors have asked for temporary shore leave, but it hasn't been granted yet.

The 984-foot cargo ship Dali sails under the flag of Singapore. The Dali weighs 95,000 tons when unladen with cargo, but it had been carrying about 4,700 containers at the time of the collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge. That's still not even half of the cargo ship's max capacity, which is up to 10,000 20-foot containers. The AP calls the Dali a "midsize ocean monster," in relation to other ships that carry over 24,000 cargo containers. Still, the Dali is a sizable vessel that'd be comparable to the Eiffel Tower in height if stood upright. The ship is due back to shore within the next few days, and authorities are currently using controlled explosions to cut through portions of the bridge that are resting on the bow of the cargo ship.

Got a tip? Email us at tips@thedrive.com

stripe