Co-workers worry about missing colleagues in bridge collapse

The frantic phone calls jolted Earl Schneider awake.

A friend who works at a hospital wanted to make sure Schneider, a structural foreman for Brawner Builders, was not on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore when it was struck by a cargo ship and collapsed early Tuesday. 

He was not, and he had not worked on the bridge, a major part of the busy Port of Baltimore, for about two weeks. But he knew every person who had been assigned that morning to fix potholes on the bridge’s roadway, directly above where the ship hit. 

One by one, he called his colleagues, including some who had recently had babies. Each call went to voicemail.

“I know everybody on that crew personally. They’re all great people,” Schneider said, declining to name them. “It’s tough. It’s been a rough morning.”

At least six people are now presumed dead after the cargo ship notified authorities of a “power issue” and issued a mayday moments before slamming into the bridge a little after 1 a.m., authorities said.

Miguel Luna, 49, is one of the workers thought to have been working on the bridge when the structure collapsed.

His wife, María Del Carmen Castellón, told Telemundo she was frustrated by the lack of information provided by authorities following the bridge collapse: “They only tell us that we have to wait and that they can’t give us information.”

“Our heart is broken because we don’t know how they have been rescued yet, we are just waiting for the news,” she said.

Jesús Campos, Luna’s coworker, told the news outlet, the tragedy has been difficult to process.

“It hurts my heart to see what is happening, we are human beings and they are my folks,” Campos said.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said an unknown number of workers were doing repairs on the bridge when the ship hit a support pillar. 

About three or four of them had welcomed newborns within the last year, according to Schneider, 33.

Image: Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapses After Being Struck By Cargo Ship
The Dali was on its way to Sri Lanka when it struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge.Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

“Folks had their lives changed in a blink of an eye,” he said. “You don’t know how much time you’ve got.”

The crash is under investigation. The governor said it was likely the result of an accident and not an act of terrorism. The bridge, which is about a mile-and-a-half long, was “fully up to code,” he said.

Two people were rescued from the water, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace said. One was in good condition, and the other was seriously injured. It’s unclear if they are construction workers.

Maynor Suazo, a father of two, who is originally from Honduras, was believed to be missing, his brother said. Suazo’s family was informed of his disappearance between 3 and 4 a.m. but had not heard any updates Tuesday evening. 

“The hope we have is to be able to see the body,” Suazo’s brother said. “We want to see him, find him, know whether he is dead, because we don’t know anything.”

Schneider last worked on the bridge about two weeks ago, leaving him grappling with some guilt over feeling grateful.

“It’s tragic in a sense of like, it’s a blessing I wasn’t on there, but it comes at the cost of somebody else,” he said. 

James Krutzfeldt, 34, another foreman for Brawner Builders, was also recently moved off bridge repairs — a project that he said has been ongoing for about four years. He also last worked on the bridge two weeks ago.

“We all bounce around,” he said. “It’s sad. I haven’t really realized it yet. I’m still kind of in shock.”

One of the workers who is unaccounted for is another foreman whom Krutzfeldt considers his mentor and “work dad.”

That worker “brought me up through Brawner’s ranks to become a foreman,” Krutzfeldt said, declining to name his colleagues.

“We’re all just waiting for a phone call,” he said. “It’s all up in the air.”

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