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Dali expected to be removed in less than two weeks, crews remain focused on finding remaining Key Bridge collapse victims

By Christian Olaniran, Mike Hellgren

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    BALTIMORE, Maryland (WJZ) — The Dali ship is expected to be removed from the wreckage site by early May before the opening of a deeper temporary channel at the Port of Baltimore.

The 45-foot-deep channel is expected to be operational in less than two weeks, by Friday, May 10.

Responders expect to have refloated and removed the Dali, the massive cargo ship that slammed into the bridge, by that time.

“There’s a lot of factors that play into that— both the engineering, the salvage operation and weather—and so we’re going to continue to move to do this as safely and as fast as possible,” said Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath, from the United States Coast Guard.

More than 180 containers have been removed from the bow of the Dali.

“We completed removing all the containers that we need to remove off the ship to make that operation as safe as possible, and we’re going to continue to plan to use precision cutting to make that operation as safe as possible,” Gilreath said.

“We’re talking about a massive piece of steel, and on one end, the steel is leaning against a vessel that is the size of the Eiffel Tower. On the other end, it’s leaning against the bottom of the riverbed,” Governor Wes Moore said.

A 35-foot-deep emergency channel that opened late last week closed Monday morning to allow crews space to safely remove the Dali.

Several shallower alternate channels will remain open during the Dali removal process.

Two of the victims who were on the bridge when it collapsed remain unaccounted for and presumably still in the water, and as each piece is removed, divers search for their bodies.

“There’s very poor visibility down there. There’s so much debris. We believe we have areas of interest, but we’re unable to access those areas of interest, said Col. Roland Butler of the Maryland State Police. “That’s why it’s so important for the Unified Command divers to work in conjunction with the salvage divers.”

The National Transportation Safety Board expects to release its preliminary report on the disaster the first week in May.

WJZ was granted rare access to one of three simulators that models the exact conditions the day of the incident. The Cal Maritime simulator found little could have been done to prevent the tragedy once the ship lost power other than to quickly warn those in its path.

One scenario showed the ship may have avoided crashing into the bridge if two tugboats were able to pull it at full speed.

“We could compare it to the perfect storm of accidents where everything that could go wrong did go wrong at exactly where we would not want it to go wrong,” said Cal Maritime assistant professor of marine transportation Kevin Calnan.

The main 50-foot-deep channel is still set to reopen by the end of May. A giant hydraulic claw will make that possible by removing pieces of the bridge embedded in the floor of the Patapsco River.

The governor addressed the need for Congress to fully fund the construction of a new Key Bridge and said Republican House Appropriations Committee chair Tom Cole of Oklahoma will visit the collapse site in an effort to win bipartisan support.

Moore said he will meet with the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday.

“We’ve already had members of Congress from Florida to Washington state show up to see the wreckage,” Governor Moore said.

Bay Bridge safety upgrades The Maryland Department of Transportation is also looking at safety upgrades to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The Bay Bridge, like the Key Bridge, is considered “fracture critical.” That means if a major support fails, the whole structure could fall.

“We have a full focus on ensuring that the critical infrastructure that we have in the state is not just protected, but that we’re continuing to come up with long-term enforcements for them as well,” the governor told WJZ.

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