Inside 55+ days of hell for Baltimore bridge vessel’s crew members forced to stay aboard without cellphones

By Megan Palin – NY Post

The 21 crew members stuck on the ship that caused the deadly Baltimore bridge collapse are reportedly having a “tough” time after not being able to leave the vessel for 55 days.

The crew — all from India, except for one man from Sri Lanka — has been forced to stay onboard since the March 26 disaster, which brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge and killed six construction workers.

During that time, they have scrambled to find survivors of the accident, had their phones confiscated by FBI agents and endured multiple controlled explosions to break apart a huge chunk of bridge stuck atop the ship’s bow.

“It has been tough for the seafarers, primarily (because) they know that there’s been loss of life,” said Gwee Guo Duan, assistant general secretary of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, one of the unions representing crew members on the Singapore-flagged ship, CNN reports.

“It is tough for them, being on board and having to look at the accident site every single day.”

A close up of the Dali's bow shows the wreckage atop

US maritime rules stipulate ships must maintain a minimum staffing at all times and at any time machinery aboard is running, so crew can be available to respond if something goes wrong.

The crew’s situation has become further complicated while they’ve been trapped because US visas they carry allowing them to leave the boat have expired.

The cargo freighter regained buoyancy on Monday morning as part of a huge team effort by the Unified Command, a coalition of various US authorities, and was moved away from the wreckage — but the crew is still required to stay put on board for now.

Officials with Synergy Marine, which owns the Dali, have reassured they are keeping the crew well supplied and that the 21 men on the ship are kept busy with maintenance and other work while aboard. They also noted the shipmates have been given access to mental health services.

The Singaporean unions also said the crew has been distressed by an “unfounded” fear that they will be held personally liable for the accident, even though evidence which has emerged in the investigation so far indicates that will not be the case.

The Rev. Joshua Messick, port chaplain and executive director of Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, said Synergy Marine is taking good care of the crew, but he was alarmed when the seamen’s cellphones were seized by the FBI in April and not returned.

“It boggles my mind why they didn’t copy the information at least — just take it off, then give them their phones back,” he told WMAR 2 News Baltimore.

The crew have since been given temporary phones to use but do not have access to their SIM cards or data from their original ones, according to multiple media reports.

The bridge collapsed on March 26 after the ship struck one of its support columns, killing six construction workers who were filling potholes on the span overnight. Those killed were not known to the sailors on board.

Now that the Unified Command has brought the Dali into port, Messick is hopeful the men will be allowed onto dry land. He says he’s been working on a plan to personally escort the men from the ship, likely five at a time, for supervised trips, according to WMAR 2 News.

Messick said he’ll find out what they want to do and where they want to go once they’re able to disembark.

The Dali can be seen stuck in the bridge after the crash

“I know the captain in particular wants to find a quiet place to be. He’s mentioned a monument; he’s mentioned parks,” he said.

“So we want to be able to take him somewhere that’s a little serene.”

Synergy Marine spokesman Darrell Wilson said the company is looking after the crew members with food, toiletries and other necessities, but they are relying on US authorities to give them the go-ahead to bring the men off the ship.

“For the foreseeable future, the crew will remain on board and Synergy Marine will continue to look after them,” he said, adding the company had “dispatched reps immediately” following the disaster.

“We hope the authorities will allow the crew to disembark the vessel and be able to return home as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, they have been “making sure they have everything they need, helping bring extra supplies on board or arranging for extra supplies,” Wilson said.

The crew isn’t free to go home until they’re cleared by the authorities conducting investigations.

Wilson admitted the company does “not know how long the investigations will take” at this time.

The bridge crash occurred after the cargo ship experienced an electrical blackout about 10 hours before leaving the Port of Baltimore on its way to Sri Lanka, federal investigators announced last week.

The first power outage happened after a crew member mistakenly closed an exhaust damper while conducting maintenance, causing one of the ship’s diesel engines to stall, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Another power outage happened just as they left Baltimore port and caused the ship to lose steering and propulsion, leading it to crash into one of the bridge’s support columns and spurring the collapse.

The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances leading up to the incident.

One thought on “Inside 55+ days of hell for Baltimore bridge vessel’s crew members forced to stay aboard without cellphones

  1. imagine how tuff it is for the families of the 6 dead workers , and I heard they got replacement phones after a few ..sorry but when you cause an accident, that kills people , you don’t get to just run back home .. I mean for once It looks like our country is going about this debacle the right way at least in this matter

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