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Explosives will be used to remove large section of Key Bridge from Dali freighter

Salvage experts work in the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge resting on the bow of the container ship Dali on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Preparations are underway to remove the bridge wreckage from the ship. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Within the next week, crews plan to use precision explosive charges to remove the large section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge draped across the bow of the Dali freighter.

Charges will be placed on the truss, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Ronald Hodges of the Key Bridge Unified Command, and the crew still aboard the Dali will shelter in place on the container ship when they are detonated.

Officials at Unified Command determined the explosives would be more effective than cutting apart the piece with powerful saws — the method used so far to separate many of the bridge pieces in the Patapsco River so they can be lifted out by massive cranes.

“It’s the safest and the quickest way, rather than having a guy up there in a crane cutting a truss that’s under a bunch of weight and tension,” Hodges said. “You have these precision cutting devices that are able to serve that same function, but in an instant, rather than doing it over days and days and days, with a worker up there right next to it.”

The goal is to complete the detonations within the next week, Hodges said, but the precise timing will depend on the completion of other steps that must happen first. For instance, crews have been using cranes to relocate some of the items aboard the Dali to one side or another, so that when the large section of truss is removed, the ship will remain stable, Hodges said. Bad weather can delay those operations, he said.

“They’re still doing crane operations, so wind is a big factor that you have to take into account for when you’re operating the cranes. Lightning is the other big, huge consideration,” Hodges said. “Crews are able to work throughout the rain, in a limited capacity, but lightning and wind are a big thing that could potentially shift the date.”

It is likely that the truss sections will fall into the water once the explosives are detonated, and will be removed later by the cranes working the site, Hodges said.

The Unified Command plans to send a news release with more information about the explosives 48 hours prior to the detonation, Hodges said.

He declined to comment further on the type of explosives that will be used, but referred to them as “precision cutting devices,” and likened them to the materials used to demolish the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on the Potomac River last year.


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