Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: Dali lost power twice before collision, NTSB says

BALTIMORE — The cargo ship Dali lost power twice before it hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March, and it suffered a pair of blackouts while docked hours earlier, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

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The NTSB on Tuesday released a preliminary report on the crash, which sent the bridge into the Patapsco River, blocked access to the Port of Baltimore and claimed the lives of six construction workers.

The Dali lost power around 1:25 a.m. on March 26 as it was about three ships’ lengths from the Key Bridge. Two electrical breakers unexpectedly tripped, taking out the lights and causing pumps required for the engine to keep operating to stop working, according to the report.

The main engine shut down automatically, and the ship lost propulsion. Crewmembers were able to get power back, but they lost it again when another set of breakers tripped as the ship was .2 miles from the bridge.

Authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic about one minute before the Dali struck it. The collision threw members of a crew working to fix potholes on the bridge into the water, killing six. One person on the Dali was injured while escaping debris, officials said.

About an hour and a half before the crash, the ship’s captain had reported that the Dali “was in good working order,” according to the NTSB. However, the agency noted that the ship also lost power twice about 10 hours before it left port.

On March 25, the ship experienced a blackout during in-port maintenance, the NTSB said. A crewmember working on a system for the ship’s diesel engine “mistakenly closed an inline engine exhaust damper,” according to investigators.

“Closure of this damper effectively blocked the engine’s cylinder exhaust gases from traveling up its stack and out of the vessel, causing the engine to stall,” the NTSB said in its preliminary report.

Power was restored, but it was lost once more due to “insufficient fuel pressure for the online generator,” officials said.

It was not immediately clear how the outage on March 25 might have impacted the later crash.

“The NTSB is still investigating the electrical configuration following the first in-port blackout and potential impacts on the events during the accident voyage,” the agency said in its report.

Authorities continue to investigate.

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