‘Can’t even look at pictures of their kids’: Indian crew still on ship that collided with Baltimore Bridge

Image Source : REUTERS Smoke rises, following a detonation of explosives to free the container ship Dali, after it was trapped following its collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge

The Baltimore’s once-iconic Francis Scott Key Bridge had collapsed into pieces in March this year. But the 20 Indian and a Sri Lankan crew members are still on the ill-fated vessel that collided with the bridge. In fact, it remains unclear when they will be able to return home. On Monday, a controlled explosion rocked the MV Dali but the crew members were forced to remain on the vessel.

According to a report by BBC, the crew members are unable to move out of the damaged vessel because of visa restrictions. Besides, the report mentioned a lack of required shore passes and parallel ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FBI, which led the crew to remain on the ship even seven weeks after the accident.

US Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath said that the crew would remain below deck with a fire crew at the ready when a controlled explosion converted the damaged Baltimore Bridge iron rodes into pieces.

“They’re part of the ship. They are necessary to keep the ship staffed and operational,” Adm Gilreath said. “They’re the best responders on board the ship themselves.

Indian crew members do not have communication devices 

Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, a non-profit organisation that works to protect the rights of mariners, is the person who has remained in touch with the crew members ever since the accident happened in the last week of March. 

According to Messick, the crew members are mostly married and have children living in India. They were not allowed to communicate with their family members as their mobile phones were seized by the investigating agencies.

“They can’t do any online banking. They can’t pay their bills at home. They don’t have any of their data or anyone’s contact information, so they’re really isolated right now,” BBC quoted Messick as saying. “They just can’t reach out to the folks they need to, or even look at pictures of their children before they go to sleep. It’s really a sad situation.”

However, after the miners’ advocacy groups pressurised investigating agencies to provide communication devices to the crew members, they were given SIM cards and temporary mobile phones. But they are still far away from the virtual world as they are not allowed to use the internet.

However, the crew members received care packages from various community groups and private individuals, which in recent weeks have included batches of Indian snacks and handmade quilts, BBC reported.

Indian Embassy in close touch with local authority

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi earlier said that there were 20 Indians on board Dali and the Indian embassy in Washington was in close touch with them and local authorities. Last week, US authorities began interviewing personnel on board Dali. The Synergy Group had said in a statement that the NTSB boarded the vessel on Wednesday and collected documents, voyage data recorder extracts, and other evidence as part of their investigation.

Grace Ocean and Synergy have confirmed the safety of all crew members and two pilots aboard the vessel. They, however, reported one minor injury and said the injured crew member has been treated and discharged from a hospital.

Baltimore bridge collapse

Six people, who were part of a construction crew repairing potholes on the bridge when the collision occurred, are presumed dead. Divers recovered the bodies of two of the construction workers from a red pickup truck found submerged in the river and a search was on for the remaining four victims.

US President Joe Biden said that the crew on board Dali had alerted transportation personnel about losing control of the vessel, enabling authorities to close the Baltimore bridge to traffic before the devastating collision, “undoubtedly” saving lives.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Baltimore bridge collapse: Six presumed dead after cargo ship knocks down, Biden thanks Indian crew members