Diving Deep: An Insider View of the Key Bridge Salvage Operation with the Return of Cruise Ships to Baltimore

By Mike Hellgren

May 24, 2024 / 7:29 PM EDT / CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE — For the first time since the Dali was successfully removed from the Key Bridge collapse site, WJZ toured the ongoing salvage operation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday for a look at the monumental progress made more than two months since the disaster.

Pieces of steel from the Key Bridge stick up above the waterline, and the process to remove them is complex.

Col. Estee Pinchasin of the Corps and Unified Command stated that their work could be compared to an amplified process of metal detection, employing a magnetometer to ensure no element is overlooked or left behind for future complications.

She further provided insight into one of the most substantial parts of the bridge that remains in the federal channel.

Initially, the main challenge was with the Dali but as it sunk further, new predicaments surfaced that required a comprehensive reevaluation,” Pinchasin informed WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.

She notified that large pillars from the bridge will be removed by the state at a future date, prior to the construction of the replacement bridge.

Pinchasin also mentioned that the full 700-foot-wide channel’s reopening has been delayed by approximately a week, around June 8th to 10th.

The process of eliminating what remains in the water was explained by her.

She detailed, “The diamond-wire saw will be lowered where divers will position it. Divers will return to the surface, and they’ll cut through the bottom, separating the large sections,” Pinchasin stated. “The wreck that was at the river’s bottom following the controlled demolition, as well as the Dali’s removal, required us to reevaluate. This finally allowed us to inspect that area.”

The past week has seen significant progress in the recovery efforts, with access to the Port of Baltimore being significantly restored.

WJZ received exclusive access earlier this week to the improvements at the port.

Sparrows Point salvage operation

The Patapsco channel is currently at a 50-foot depth but the width is 400 feet, sufficient for one way traffic for the largest vessels. The introduction of the entire 700-foot channel will facilitate two-way traffic.

Pinchasin and her crew presented us with the salvage operation at Sparrows Point, featuring Chessie, the largest crane present, engaged in hauling a massive section of the Key Bridge that was recently removed from the water.

The Dali, the vessel responsible for the disaster, is still stationed at Seagirt.

Now berthed at Baltimore’s cruise terminal is the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, seeing its first docking in several months. Its voyage embarks on Saturday. The Carnival Pride, making its departure from the terminal on Sunday, is another pointer to the rapid strides towards complete restoration.

However, Pinchasin insists that her mission is unfulfilled.

She claimed in her conversation with WJZ that they wouldn’t cease operations until the entire channel is operational and no residue is left behind.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren came to WJZ in the spring of 2004. Solid reporting credentials and a reputation for breaking important news stories have characterized Mike’s work. Mike holds a B.S. degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and grew up partly in both Chicago and Louisiana.

First published on May 24, 2024 / 7:29 PM EDT

© 2024 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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