Ship that caused bridge collapse had apparent electrical issues while still docked, AP source says

BALTIMORE (AP) — The massive container ship that caused the deadly collapse of a Baltimore bridge experienced apparent electrical issues before it left port but set out anyway, someone with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Monday, hours after the FBI said it was investigating whether any laws might have been broken.

The Dali left Baltimore’s port early on March 26 laden with cargo destined for Sri Lanka when it struck one of the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s supports, causing the span to collapse into the Patapsco River and sending six members of a roadwork crew plummeting to their deaths. Three of their bodies have been recovered.

The Dali experienced apparent electrical issues before leaving port, according to someone with knowledge of the situation. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment, said alarms went off on the ship’s refrigerated containers while it was still docked in Baltimore, likely indicating an inconsistent power supply.

The ship’s crew was aware of the issues and indicated they would be addressed, according to the person.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board have said their investigation will include an inquiry into whether the ship experienced power issues before starting its voyage.

Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said last week that the investigation is focused on the ship’s electrical system generally. The ship experienced power issues moments before the crash, as is evident in videos that show its lights going out and coming back on.

Homendy said information gleaned from the vessel’s voyage data recorder is relatively basic, “so that information in the engine room will help us tremendously.”

The FBI said Monday that it is conducting a criminal investigation into the bridge collapse that is focused on the circumstances leading up to it and whether all federal laws were followed, according to a different person familiar with the matter. The person wasn't authorized to discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

FBI agents were aboard the cargo ship on Monday conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity, the agency said in a statement. It didn't elaborate and said it wouldn't comment further on the investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Mayor Brandon Scott issued a statement Monday announcing a partnership with two law firms to “launch legal action to hold the wrongdoers responsible” and mitigate harm to the people of Baltimore.

Scott said the city “will take decisive action to hold responsible all entities accountable for the Key Bridge tragedy, including the owner, charterer, manager/operator, and the manufacturer of the M/V Dali, as well as any other potentially liable third parties.”

He said with the ship’s owner already seeking to limit the company’s liability, the city needs to act quickly to protect its own interests.

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd., both of Singapore. Danish shipping giant Maersk chartered the Dali.

“Due to the magnitude of the incident, there are various government agencies conducting investigations, in which we are fully participating,” Synergy Marine spokesperson Darrell Wilson said in a statement Monday. “Out of respect for these investigations and any future legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

The investigation comes amid concerns about the safety of thousands of U.S. bridges and days after more than two dozen river barges broke loose and struck a closed span in Pittsburgh.

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