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The ship that struck the Key Bridge had electrical problems in port, the NTSB says

In this aerial view, a steel truss from the destroyed Francis Scott Key Bridge that was pinning the container ship Dali in place was detached from the ship using a controlled detonation of explosives in the Patapsco River on Monday in Baltimore, Md.
Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images
In this aerial view, a steel truss from the destroyed Francis Scott Key Bridge that was pinning the container ship Dali in place was detached from the ship using a controlled detonation of explosives in the Patapsco River on Monday in Baltimore, Md.

WASHINGTON — The container ship that struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge had electrical problems the day before it left the Port of Baltimore when it was docked, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Dali experienced a "blackout" during in-port maintenance on March 25, the NTSB wrote in its report, when "a crewmember mistakenly closed an inline engine exhaust damper."

But the NTSB says it's still not clear how that incident relates to what happened early the following morning, when the Dali lost power twice in the minutes before it crashed into one of the bridge's supports.

"The NTSB is still investigating the electrical configuration following the first in-port blackout and potential impacts on the events during the accident voyage," the report says.

Six construction workers were killed when the Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River, cutting off most maritime traffic into Baltimore's busy port and severing an interstate highway that carried 34,000 vehicles per day.

The effort to free the Dali took a major step forward this week with the controlled demolition of the largest remaining span of the collapsed bridge, which was resting on top of the ship's bow. Crews set off a chain of carefully placed explosives on Monday, letting off plumes of black smoke and a loud boom as the mangled steel trusses crashed into the water below.

Salvage crews continue to remove wreckage from the Dali six weeks after the cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Salvage crews continue to remove wreckage from the Dali six weeks after the cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

The next step is to refloat the Dali so that it can be guided to a nearby terminal at the port for temporary repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened a temporary alternate channel, and it is still working to restore a deeper channel for large container ships that typically use the port.

State and federal officials have pledged to rebuild the Key Bridge, but they acknowledge it won't be easy or quick. Meanwhile the legal fight over who will ultimately pay to replace the bridge is underway.

The NTSB and the FBI are separately investigating the incident. Their findings could play an important role in determining who is ultimately held liable for the accident.

Investigators at the NTSB say they analyzed samples of the fuel that was being burned at the time of the accident, as well as other fuel tanks on the vessel. But those results did not identify any concerns relating to the quality of the fuel, investigators said.

The NTSB says it's working with the Maryland Transportation Authority to assess its other bridges and to determine whether pier protection measures need to be improved. The MDTA is studying options for upgrades to the existing protection system around both spans of the Bay Bridge that connect Annapolis to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, according to the report.

"The NTSB investigation of all aspects of the accident is ongoing as we determine the probable cause," the report says.
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Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.