Body Of Last Missing Construction Worker Recovered From Baltimore Bridge Collapse Site

The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge lays on top of the container ship Dali, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge lays on top of the container ship Dali, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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BALTIMORE (AP) — The body of the last missing construction worker killed in the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in March has been recovered, officials announced Tuesday as demolition crews prepared to use explosives in the ongoing cleanup effort.

Officials said the crew of the Dali will remain on board the grounded container ship while crews conduct a controlled demolition to break down the largest remaining span of the fallen bridge.

The steel span landed on the ship’s bow after the Dali lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s support columns on March 26. Since then, the ship has been stuck amid the wreckage, and Baltimore’s busy port has been closed to most maritime traffic.

Six construction workers were killed in the collapse. The body of Jose Mynor Lopez, 37, was recovered Tuesday, officials said in a statement that evening. All the victims were Latino immigrants who were working an overnight shift filling potholes on the bridge. Police officers were able to stop traffic moments before the collapse, but they didn’t have enough time to alert the workers.

Lopez moved to the United States from Guatemala. During a vigil last month honoring the victims whose families were still awaiting closure, mourners used a crane to hoist a Guatemalan flag in his memory.

Officials said salvage divers located his body and alerted state authorities.

“With heavy hearts, today marks a significant milestone in our recovery efforts and providing closure to the loved ones of the six workers who lost their lives in this tragic event,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland Butler Jr. said in a statement.

The controlled demolition, which is expected to take place in the coming days, will allow the Dali to be refloated and guided back into the Port of Baltimore, officials said. Once the ship is removed, maritime traffic can begin returning to normal, which will provide relief for thousands of longshoremen, truckers and small business owners have seen their jobs impacted by the closure.

Officials previously said they hoped to remove the Dali by May 10 and reopen the port’s 50-foot (15.2-meter) main channel by the end of May.

The Dali’s 21-member crew will shelter in place aboard the ship while the explosives are detonated, said Petty Officer Ronald Hodges of the Coast Guard.

Engineers have been working for weeks to determine the best way to remove this last major piece of the fallen bridge. The explosives will send it tumbling into the water. Then a massive hydraulic grabber will lift the resulting sections of steel onto barges.

Video footage released by Coast Guard officials last week showed entire sections of roadway sitting on the ship’s deck.

Hodges said the crew’s safety was a top concern as officials considered whether they should remain on the ship during the demolition. He said engineers are using precision cuts to control how the trusses break down.

“The last thing anybody wants is for something to happen to the crew members,” Hodges said.

They haven’t been allowed to leave the Dali since the disaster. Officials said they’ve been busy maintaining the ship and assisting investigators. Of the crew members, 20 are from India and one is Sri Lankan.

A spokesperson for the crew didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI are conducting investigations into the bridge collapse.

Danish shipping giant Maersk had chartered the Dali for a planned trip from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, but the ship didn’t get far. Its crew sent a mayday call saying they had lost power and had no control of the steering system. Minutes later, the ship rammed into the bridge.

Officials have said the safety board investigation will focus on the ship’s electrical system, including whether it experienced power issues before leaving Baltimore.

Maryland leaders said last week that they plan to rebuild the bridge by fall 2028.