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Lead Key Bridge investigator is experienced mariner with roots aboard oil rigs

Alex Mann, Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — The man federal authorities tapped to lead an investigation into a massive cargo ship’s crash into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge and the bridge’s immediate, deadly collapse is an experienced mariner who traces his seafaring roots to time spent aboard oil rigs.

Marcel Muise joined the National Transportation Safety Board as a marine accident investigator in 2018 after more than two decades in the maritime industry, where he served in several capacities for the Coast Guard and worked on numerous private vessels, rising through the ranks from mate to captain.

John Konrad, who worked alongside Muise for a decade in the maritime business before launching, an industry news site, called Muise a “bona fide captain,” saying he sailed under the highest license administered by the Coast Guard and gained such expertise overseeing the construction of oil rigs in South Korea.

“He walks the deck. He understands the engine systems — not just the technical stuff, but how you run them,” Konrad told The Baltimore Sun.

Between 2018 and 2021, Muise played a leading role in the investigations into at least three deadly accidents, according to an NTSB spokesman. The agency appointed Muise investigator in charge of its probe into the Titan submersible, which imploded last summer — killing the five people inside — in the Atlantic Ocean on an expedition to the deep ocean wreck of the Titanic.

Former marine investigators described his experience as invaluable for confronting the biggest job of his career: Figuring out why a container ship crashed March 26 into one of the Key Bridge’s critical supports, causing the bridge to collapse and killing six members of a construction crew who were filling potholes, and ultimately crafting safety recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy.


In addition to the death toll, the crash indefinitely interrupted vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore, a key economic and transit hub whose impact reaches far beyond Maryland. The 984-foot, 112,000-ton Dali still sits aground among the mangled steel and concrete that once transported more than 30,000 vehicles a day over the port’s main and only channel into the Chesapeake Bay.

“This one has a level of interest that is not usual,” Barry Strauch, who served as an NTSB investigator for more than three decades, told the Sun.

In any safety board probe, the lead investigator is responsible for setting the pace of the investigation and coordinating groups of experts assembled to look into certain elements of the accident, according to Strauch and Thomas Roth-Roffy, who investigated marine accidents for the NTSB for 18 years.

The NTSB declined to make Muise available for an interview. But on his LinkedIn page, Muise describes himself as a capable leader, nodding to his experience commanding oil rigs.


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