Baltimore bridge collapse: two bodies recovered from water, officials say

<span>Wreckage from the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains on top of the cargo ship Dali in Baltimore, Maryland, on Wednesday.</span><span>Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA</span>
Wreckage from the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains on top of the cargo ship Dali in Baltimore, Maryland, on Wednesday.Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The bodies of two men trapped in their vehicle have been recovered from the waters beneath the Baltimore bridge that collapsed early on Tuesday when a container ship crashed into it, officials announced on Wednesday.

The authorities identified the men as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, a 35-year-old originally from Mexico who was living in Baltimore, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, who was from Guatemala and was living in Dundalk, Maryland.

Divers found the bodies in a red pickup truck in the Patapsco River near the mid-span of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. They were found on Wednesday morning and their loved ones were informed in person by officials on Wednesday afternoon, the public and media were told at an evening briefing.

Four other construction workers who had been on the bridge remain missing and are presumed dead. The workers on the bridge, six in total, came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, authorities said.

All search efforts have been exhausted, and based on sonar scans, authorities said they “firmly” believed the other vehicles with victims inside were encased in superstructures and concrete from the collapsed bridge. A co-worker of the people missing said yesterday that he had been told the workers were on break and sitting in their trucks parked on the bridge when it crumpled.

The governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, told the families of the victims: “Estamos contigo, ahora y siempre” – “We are with you, now and always.”

The scope of the bridge disaster had already widened on Wednesday after the six construction workers had been declared dead and investigators recovered the black box from the ship whose crash brought one of America’s busiest ports to a grinding halt.

On Wednesday, investigators began collecting evidence from the vessel, a Singaporean-flagged container ship headed for Sri Lanka. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) boarded the ship to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to do interviews with the captain and other crew members, the NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said during a news conference. Twenty-three people, including two pilots, were on the ship when it crashed, she said.

The ship was also carrying 56 containers of hazardous materials including corrosives, flammables and lithium ion batteries, Homendy said. She added that some containers were breached and that a sheen on the water from those materials would be handled by authorities.

The agency also is reviewing the voyage data recorder recovered by the US Coast Guard and building a timeline of what led to the crash, which federal and state officials have said appeared to be an accident. The ship’s crew issued a mayday call early Tuesday, saying they had lost power and the vessel’s steering system just minutes before striking one of the bridge’s columns.

At least eight people initially went into the water, and two of them were rescued Tuesday, officials said, two of whom were rescued after falling from the bridge with their fellow workers in the early hours of Tuesday. One was hospitalized at the Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He was later discharged.

The US transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, shared his condolences with the victims’ families, saying: “Tragically, six people did lose their lives and a seventh was badly injured. These were workers who went out to work on a night shift, repairing the road service while most of us slept.”

Buttigieg also warned of a “major and protracted impact to supply chains”. Baltimore is the ninth-busiest port in the US and the busiest for car shipments. General Motors and Ford announced they would reroute affected shipments, and Maersk, the shipping company that had chartered the Dali, said it was diverting shipments and offering to help clients book road transportation from other ports.

Lawmakers in Maryland drafted an emergency bill to cover the salaries of workers affected by the shutdown of the port.

Related: Details emerge on Baltimore bridge collapse victims: ‘They were wonderful family people’

On social media, Bill Ferguson, the state senate president, said more than 15,000 people in the region relied on daily port operations “to put food on the table”.

“The human cost of lives lost yesterday is overwhelming and tragic. The economic and stability loss to the thousands impacted in the days ahead cannot be understated,” Ferguson said.

Although the bridge collapse and widespread disruption to traffic and travel have caused ripples in the region, experts said the effect on the broader US economy or inflation would probably be limited. But Salvatore Mercogliano, a shipping expert and history professor at Campbell University, said the biggest issue following the collapse would involve the export of coal.

“Baltimore is a major port for the export of coal, and it’s not like you can move the coal to another facility because you need specialized facilities for that … and those that do exist are largely at capacity. Shutting down the port of Baltimore is going to have a major impact on the transportation of energy out of the United States,” Mercogliano said.

Jesús Campos, a construction worker, said he knew the missing crew members and that the men all worked for the construction company Brawner Builders.

“It’s a difficult situation … my friends were working on that bridge,” Campos said, adding that the workers were low-income immigrants who used their wages to support their families in the US and abroad.

The named victims include 49-year-old Miguel Luna from El Salvador, a husband and father of three who lived in Maryland for over 19 years, and 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, originally from Azacualpa in Honduras, a married father of two who had lived in the US for 18 years and launched his own maintenance business.

Guatemala’s foreign ministry also confirmed that two of the six workers were Guatemalan nationals, aged 26 and 35 and originally from San Luis, Petén, and Camotán, Chiquimula, respectively.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said three Mexican nationals had also been also working on the bridge when it collapsed. He added that one was rescued while two others remain missing.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Mexican foreign ministry said that the person who was rescued was originally from Michoacán and was recovering from his injuries. The two people who are missing were originally from Veracruz and Michoacán, the ministry said.

A crowdfunding campaign set up by the Latino Racial Justice Circle, a non-profit organization serving the Baltimore area, had raised nearly $100,000 for the victims’ families as of Wednesday afternoon. The funds will be distributed across the families and will be put towards basic needs including rent, groceries and utilities, the campaign said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting