Baltimore Bridge Collapse Survivor Tells NBC About Fight for Life
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Baltimore Bridge Collapse Survivor Tells NBC About Fight for Life

Baltimore Bridge Collapse Survivor Tells NBC About Fight for Life

FILE – The Dali cargo ship gets stuck under part of the Francis Scott Key Bridge structure after hitting the bridge, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Pasadena, Md. Julio Cervantes Suarez, the only person to survive a fall from Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge during its catastrophic collapse, says he watched in horror as his coworkers, friends and relatives plummeted to their deaths. In an exclusive interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday evening, July 10, 2024, he described fighting for his life after his truck plunged into the Patapsco River. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The sole survivor of a fall from Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge during its catastrophic collapse says she watched in horror as her coworkers, friends and relatives plummeted to their deaths.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday night, Julio Cervantes Suarez described fighting for his life after his truck plunged into the Patapsco River. He was part of a crew filling holes in the bridge when the massive cargo ship lost power and hit one of its supporting columns on March 26.


Six people died in the disaster, including Cervantes Suarez’s nephew and brother-in-law. An inspector working with the crew managed to escape to safety and refused medical attention.

Cervantes Suarez, 37, who has not previously spoken publicly about his experience, said the men were sitting in their construction vehicles during a break when the bridge suddenly began to collapse beneath them. A last-minute mayday call from the ship’s pilot allowed nearby police to stop traffic on the bridge moments earlier, but they didn’t have enough time to alert construction workers.

Faced with almost certain death, Cervantes Suarez said he thanks God for his family.

Miraculously, he managed to manually open the window of the sinking truck and climb out into the icy water.

“That’s when I realized what had happened,” he told NBC News in Spanish. “I looked at the bridge and it was gone.”

He said he called out to his companions by name, but no one answered. Unable to swim, he clung to a piece of floating concrete until he was rescued by first responders. He was hospitalized for treatment of a chest wound.

Cervantes Suarez said he could not come to terms with the fall and was mourning an unimaginable loss.

All the victims were Latino immigrants who moved to the US to look for work.

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, Baltimore County’s tight-knit Latino community built an elaborate memorial where loved ones often gathered while rescue divers continued to search the wreckage for human remains. It took six weeks to recover all the bodies.

“They were good people, good workers and had good values,” Cervantes Suarez said.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the cargo ship Dali experienced power outages before beginning its journey from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, but the exact cause of the electrical problems has not yet been determined. The FBI is also conducting a criminal investigation into the circumstances that led to the disaster.

The ship’s owner and manager, both based in Singapore, filed a lawsuit shortly after the collapse seeking to limit their legal liability. The city of Baltimore, among other cities, disputed the claim and accused the companies of negligence. Lawyers representing the victims of the collapse and their families, including Cervantes Suarez, have also pledged to hold the companies accountable.

A federal court in Maryland will finally decide who is liable and how much is owed for what is likely one of the most expensive maritime disasters in history.

Authorities have pledged to rebuild the bridge, which could cost at least $1.7 billion and take several years.

During a Senate committee hearing Wednesday morning, Maryland senators again called on Congress to approve a spending measure that would allow the federal government to cover 100% of the recovery costs.

As local media reported earlier this week, the remaining sections of the bridge will be demolished in the coming months to make way for the new structure.