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NTSB investigators on the cargo vessel Dali, which struck and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024. (Photo: Peter Knudson/NTSB)

NTSB investigators on the cargo vessel Dali, which struck and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024. (Photo: Peter Knudson/NTSB)

NTSB Chair Homendy Provides Update on DALI-Francis Scott Key Bridge Investigation

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 7858
April 10, 2024

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy has provided an update on the board’s ongoing investigation into the M/V Dali incident and the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. The update came during during her nomination (reappointment) hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Wednesay, during which she provided a detailed account on the progress of the investigation so far.

During her testimony, Homendy shared that the investigation team has conducted extensive interviews with a wide range of crew members and stakeholders, including the two pilots, Second Officer who was on watch at the time of the incident, the ship’s Master, Chief Engineer, various other members of the engineering department, the Helmsman, the Bosun, and the Chief Officer who was off watch at the time. Interviews have also been conducted with three U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders at the command center. Investigators have also gathered statements from tugboat operators, with further interviews in progress.

Homendy said thorough investigative efforts are continuing with the NTSB team remaining actively on the scene and ship itself. A key aspect of the investigation has involved the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR), which was downloaded on-site, and later removed to extract the prior 30 days of data in a specialized lab, aiming to uncover more details about the incident.

Several key parties have been formally involved in the investigation, including Grace Ocean, the shipowner; Synergy, Dali’s commercial operator; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Maryland Transportation Authority; and the Association of Maryland Pilots. The focus has been broad, covering the ship’s engine room equipment—especially the electrical power system—with additional assistance from the equipment’s manufacturer, who recently sent experts from overseas to inspect the circuit breakers.

The Singapore-flagged Dali, a 984.3-feet-long containership, is suspected of losing power before it collided with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge just before 1:30 a.m. on March 26, causing the bridge to collapse in a matter of seconds. Six workers who were on the bridge at the time of the accident are presumed dead. Three remain missing.

Homendy also emphasized the efforts of the Office of Highway Safety team in examining pier protection measures, assessing the original design of the bridge and how it would be constructed under current standards.

Contrary to some erroneous media reports, Homendy confirmed that a preliminary report is expected in the first week of May.

Homendy also shared that learnings from the ongoing investigation recalls previous recommendations directed at the U.S. Coast Guard dating as far back as 1976, urging the Coast Guard to examine vessel types, shipping routes, and waterways across the United States, including the volume of traffic and pier protection measures. Despite initial limitations cited by the Coast Guard regarding authority, a review of the types of pier protection available was conducted, though not in specific areas, Homendy said.

“Our investigation is ongoing, and we have a significant amount of work ahead. While we have already learned much, we remain committed to thorough and comprehensive investigative processes and are happy to provide further information as needed,” Homendy said.

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