The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits
The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits AFP

Six people are presumed dead after a cargo ship collided with Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday, causing it to crumble into Patapsco River.

Rescue efforts for the missing construction workers on the bridge at the time transitioned into a recovery mission by Tuesday evening, according to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon N. Gilreath. The workers were from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, The Baltimore Banner reported.

The Coast Guard ended its search late Tuesday, citing the cold water temperature and the time elapsed since the overnight collapse. Gilreath said a rescue mission was no longer viable. "We do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," he said.

But the recovery efforts are expected to continue early Wednesday morning.

According to NBC News, there is one survivor from the bridge collapse. However, the identities of those involved are being withheld for now.

Brawner Builders' executive vice president, Jeffrey Pritzker, confirmed the crew was working on the central section when the bridge collapsed. "This was so completely unforeseen," he said, adding, "We don't know what else to say. We take such great pride in safety, and we have cones and signs and lights and barriers and flaggers. But we never foresaw that the bridge would collapse."

According to The Washington Post, quick action by the crew of the Dali ship may have prevented a larger tragedy. Maryland Governor Wes Moore said the crew issued a mayday alert immediately after losing power.

This warning allowed authorities to block traffic on the Francis Scott Key Bridge before the ship's collision, potentially saving lives.

"We're thankful that between the 'mayday' and collapse, we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge," Moore said. "These people are heroes. They saved lives last night."

Moore also expressed heartbreak after the active search for survivors was suspended. "Our heart goes out to the families. I can't imagine how painful today has been for these families, how painful these hours have been have been for these families," he said.

The governor declared a state of emergency in response to the bridge collapse. Using sonar technology, rescue crews identified at least five vehicles submerged in the frigid, 50-foot-deep water. These included three passenger cars, a cement truck, and another unidentified vehicle. Thankfully, authorities believe none of these vehicles contained occupants at the time of the collapse.

Investigators have concluded that it was an accident and not an act of terrorism.