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Baltimore Bridge Collapse

FBI investigators board the Dali, fourth body recovered in Baltimore harbour

Photo: USCG The M/V Dali is shown with the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 30, 2024, in Baltimore
The M/V Dali is shown with the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 30, 2024, in Baltimore.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched a criminal investigation into the container ship Dali’s allision with the Key Bridge in Baltimore that left six dead.

The Dali remains stricken in Baltimore harbour with portions of the collapsed bridge on top of the vessel.  Specifically, observers in Baltimore reportedly observed investigators taking small craft out and then boarding the vessel.

According to the Washington Post, quoting un-named sources, “The FBI has opened a criminal investigation focusing on the massive container ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month — a probe that will look at least in part at whether the crew left the port knowing the vessel had serious systems problems, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.” These reports also referred to a statement from the agency: “The FBI is present aboard the cargo ship Dali conducting court authorized law enforcement activity,” Further information was not available.

Meanwhile Unified Command said salvors had recovered the body of fourth victim of the accident in a vehicle in the bridge wreckage.

The investigation into the Dali allision will be multifaceted; when a transportation accident is the subject of government inquiries, FBI involvement is not unprecedented. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the independent Federal agency which investigates transportation accidents, explains on its website (emphasis added): “In cases of suspected criminal activity, other agencies may participate in the investigation. We do not investigate criminal activity. Our focus is solely on transportation safety and determining probable cause. If a transportation tragedy is determined to be a criminal act, local law enforcement or the FBI becomes the lead investigative body.”

The NTSB, presently the lead Federal investigative agency looking at the Baltimore disaster, is expected to issue its preliminary report in early May. Early indications suggest that the agency is focusing its investigation on the vessel’s electrical system.

Consider the recent high-profile September 2019 disaster involving the diving boat P/V Conception –that caught fire and sank near in California on Labor Day in 2019, resulting in the deaths of 33 passengers and one crew member.  Along with the NTSB, agencies assisting in that investigation included the FBI, Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In this case, the NTSB remained in the lead.

Ultimately, the vessel’s Captain, who survived the fire, was convicted in a Federal court of “seaman’s manslaughter”, which could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Resource: NTSB report on P/V Conception investigation: