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FBI boards ship amid investigation into what caused Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse

Alex Mann, Dan Belson and Darcy Costello, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — The FBI on Monday raided the container ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge nearly three weeks ago as part of an investigation into the deadly bridge collapse.

Agents boarded the Dali Monday morning and were “conducting court authorized law enforcement activity,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office said Monday, declining to comment further.

The FBI likely is looking into whether any federal laws were broken in the lead up to the bridge disaster, experts said For example, in past American maritime disasters, federal authorities leveraged an old statute known as “seaman’s manslaughter” to prosecute people they believed to have been criminally negligent for people’s deaths.

The Dali, a 984-foot ship which weighed about 112,000 tons loaded with cargo, apparently lost power and rammed one of the Key Bridge’s main support piers in the early morning of March 26, causing the 1.6-mile span to immediately collapse into the Patapsco River along with seven construction workers, killing six men.

Video of the collapse showed the lights aboard the Dali go out and then flicker as it approached the Key Bridge. A local pilot, who was onboard to guide the ship out of the harbor safely, reported losing all power, including the ability to steer, in a “mayday” call shortly before striking the bridge.

The FBI’s criminal investigation would run in parallel to the one by the National Transportation Safety Board, which aims to prevent future accidents.


The NTSB’s investigation has focused on the Dali’s engine room, board chair Jennifer Homendy told federal lawmakers last week.

Officials previously said the Dali’s crew reported to the Coast Guard that they were going to be conducting routine engine maintenance while in Baltimore.

The vessel experienced apparent electrical issues before it left the Port of Baltimore, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation. That person said alarms went off on the ship’s refrigerated containers while it was still docked, likely indicating an inconsistent power supply.

That the FBI said it was onboard conducting “court-authorized law enforcement activity” suggests agents were serving a federal search warrant, Rod Rosenstein, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for Maryland, told The Baltimore Sun. Federal judges sign off on such warrants only after agents present probable cause that there was crime, he said.


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