May 26, 2024

It’s been roughly seven weeks since Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed, but nearly two dozen sailors remain on the cargo ship responsible for the disaster. The Dali was finally unstuck on Monday from a giant piece of bridge that fell on the ship’s bow. However, the BBC reports that 21 Indian and Sri Lankan sailors are trapped onboard for different reasons.

The crew members reportedly need to stay on board due to visa restrictions, a lack of shore passes, and two ongoing investigations from the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Furthermore, authorities say the crew is keeping busy by continuing to operate the large cargo vessel. In the last two months, these 21 sailors have witnessed a bridge collapse onto them, dead bodies pulled from the Patapsco River, and a controlled explosion just off the front of their ship.

On Monday, authorities freed the Dali from an enormous cage of metal and pavement that’s been resting on the ship for seven weeks through small explosions. The procedure is called “precision cutting,” using small charges to split the portion of the collapsed bridge into more manageable sections. The BBC reports that Dali’s crew was required to remain below deck in the ship’s hull with a fire crew at the ready.

“They’re part of the ship. They are necessary to keep the ship staffed and operational,” said U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath to the BBC. “They’re the best responders on board the ship themselves.”

On board, the report describes “a sad situation” where sailors have had their mobile phones confiscated as part of an FBI investigation. The head of a non-profit organization that protects the rights of mariners tells the BBC that crew members have been unable to pay bills or send funds home to their families. The crew was reportedly given SIM cards and burner phones without data included, but many of them don’t have anyone’s contact information.

“While some crew members are coping, morale has understandably dipped,” according to a joint statement from the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen earlier this week. The statement details that crew members have been under “emotional distress.”

Authorities have reportedly been shipping ample amounts of food and supplies on board for the 21 crew members. There were originally 23 members on the Dali, but it seems two were able to deboard. The remaining crew has also received care packages from various community groups and private individuals, including batches of Indian snacks, handmade quilts, and puzzles.

Some crew members worry they’ll be held personally responsible for the disaster. A preliminary NTSB report found that two electrical blackouts disabled equipment ahead of the incident. The day before, the Dali reportedly experienced another outage. The report details that the boat’s pilot made a call by very high-frequency (VHF) marine radio to warn all waterborne traffic just minutes before the crash.

Darrel Wilson, spokesperson for Synergy Marine, the Dali’s Singapore-based management company told the BBC he was unable to provide a timeline for the crew to disembark the ship at this time. Once the ship has been fully refloated, tugboats will pull the Dali to a Baltimore port. There, it’s expected the ship will remain docked for several weeks for repairs, while the men will stay on the ship “for the foreseeable future.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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