April 14, 2024


It’s been about a week since a cargo ship crashed into and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Despite the time that has passed and the disaster that ensued, all 22 members of the ship’s crew are still onboard the Dali.

There isn’t a whole lot known about them other than that they embarked on a journey aboard the nearly 1,000-foot-long cargo ship with 4,700 shipping containers on board that was destined for Sri Lanka before it lost power and smashed into the Key Bridge. Since the accident, they have found themselves in an “unexpected spotlight,” according to the The New York Times. They’ve been tasked with keeping the ship operable as they answer a whole lot of questions from investigation officials about the disaster. After all, no one is going to know better about what exactly went down than the folks who were there when it happened.

So these guys have been asked a whole lot of questions about what happened, but I think we should take a moment to think about them as people. What are they going through right now? Luckily, The Times had a similar thought.

“They must feel this weight of responsibility that they couldn’t stop it from happening,” said Joshua Messick, the executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, a religious nonprofit that seeks to protect the rights of mariners.

Even so, officials have praised the crew’s swift mayday message that was transmitted over the radio as the ship lost power on Tuesday. Before the Dali struck the bridge, traveling at a rapid eight knots, the mayday call helped police officers stop traffic from heading onto the bridge, most likely saving many lives, the authorities said. A local harbor pilot with more than 10 years of experience was onboard, as well as an apprentice pilot in training.

Right now, the crew is in a sort of limbo. They can’t return to dock until enough debris is cleared off the ship and the channel is reopened. Because of that, they’re most likely working a schedule to maintain the ship that is similar to what they’d be doing if they were out at sea, according to The Times.

“The captain of the vessel and the crew have a duty to the ship,” said Stephen Frailey, a partner at Pacific Maritime Group, which helps with marine salvage and wreck removal.

According to Chris James, who works for a consulting firm assisting the ship’s management company, Synergy Marine, the crew members have ample supplies of food and water, as well as plenty of fuel to keep the generators going. Indeed, when Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, went onboard the ship this week, she observed the cook cooking. “It smelled very good,” she said.

But there is still no exact timeline for when the ship might be extracted from the wreckage, Mr. James said. Once the N.T.S.B. and the Coast Guard finish their investigations, he said, “we’ll look at potentially swapping the crew out and getting them home.”

Some folks in Baltimore’s port community have actually contacted crew members stuck on the Dali through third parties or WhatsApp. Messick sent the crew two WiFi hotspots last week because they didn’t have internet access onboard.

[Andrew Middleton, who runs a program that ministers to sailors coming through the port] said he had been keeping in touch with two crew members, reminding them that “we’re here for them.”

“When I’ve asked how they’re doing, their answers range from ‘good’ to ‘great,’” he said. “So, by their own accounts, they’re OK.”

Mr. Messick said he had also sent a care package to the crew through a salvage company helping with operations. In the package were candy, home-baked muffins from a concerned local and thank-you cards from children.

With so many questions still unanswered about the crew members’ next steps, Mr. Messick said he was eager to provide them with trauma care and emotional support. On Friday, he wrote a letter to the captain, which was delivered by another vessel.

“We’re here to support you,” it read.

A version of this article originally appeared on Jalopnik.



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