Baltimore bridge collapse timeline: Inside the cargo ship collision

"The whole bridge just fell down," a law enforcement officer radioed dispatch.

Just after midnight on Tuesday, the fully loaded container ship Dali lifted anchor and prepared to depart the Port of Baltimore with 23 crew members aboard, destined for Sri Lanka nearly 9,000 miles away.

There was no apparent indication of the catastrophe awaiting the vessel. Authorities said the bridge was undergoing maintenance at the time and that one lane in each direction remained open.

Here is how the incident unfolded:

12:39 a.m. -- The 984-foot-long, Singapore-flagged cargo ship pulls out of its berth at a marine terminal southeast of downtown Baltimore, according to ship's voyage data recorder (VDR) reviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

1 a.m. A livestream camera captures light traffic, including a tractor-trailer rig, moving across the 1.6-mile Key Bridge.

1:07 a.m. -- The cargo ship enters the Fort McHenry channel and begins to head down the Patapsco River toward the Francis Scott Key Bridge, according to the VDR.

1:24 a.m. -- The livestream camera shows the cargo ship's lights suddenly going off and then coming back on.

1:24:59 a.m. -- Numerous audible alarms go off on the bridge of the container ship. The VDR temporarily goes off.

1:26 a.m. -- The Dali appears to lose its lights again as it drifts slightly to the right in the direction of one of the bridge's main center columns supporting the arched steel trusses of the span. At the time, vehicles can still be seen crossing the bridge. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said that about this time a mayday call was made from the vessel, giving transportation officials just enough time to order a halt to traffic approaching both ends of the bridge, likely saving lives.

1:27:39 a.m. -- The pilot aboard the ship makes a general VHF radio call for tugboats in the area to assist. At the same time, a Pilot Association dispatcher phones Maryland Transportation Authority duty officers regarding a blackout on the Dali.

1:27:04 a.m. -- The pilot aboard the Dali orders the vessel's port anchor be dropped, according to the VDR.

1:27:25 a.m. -- The pilot aboard the cargo ship issues a VHF radio call reporting the Dali has lost all power and was approaching the bridge. Around the same time, a Maryland Transportation Authority duty officer radios the agency's units, informing them to hold traffic at the south and north ends of the bridge, saying, "There's a ship approaching it [that] just lost their steering," according to a recording of the dispatch from

1:28 a.m. -- Dark smoke appears to be coming from the cargo ship, which is moving at 7 knots, or 8 mph.

1:29:33 a.m. -- The VDR on the cargo ship records sounds consistent with the vessel hitting the bridge. Officials said at the time of the collision no traffic was crossing the bridge, but parked vehicles, apparently belonging to the maintenance crew filling potholes, were still on the span. Two maintenance workers survive, one by running from the bridge and the other by going into the water and swimming to shore. Six other maintenance workers remain unaccounted for. A law enforcement officer makes a desperate radio transmission to dispatch, saying, "The whole bridge just fell down. Start whoever, everybody. The whole bridge just collapsed."

1:39:39 a.m. -- The pilot on the Dali tells the Coast Guard over the VHF radio that the Key Bridge is down.

1:40 a.m. -- The Baltimore City Fire Department’s 911 center dispatch receives a call about a water rescue in the Patapsco River near the Key Bridge. As fire crews race to the bridge, they receive numerous calls indicating multiple people in the water.

1:50 a.m. -- Fire crews arrive at the scene and report a complete collapse of the Key Bridge and that multiple people were likely on the span when it occurred.

6:26 a.m. -- At an early morning news conference Tuesday, Baltimore City Fire Chief James Wallace said sonar detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water and that an all-out search-and-rescue operation involving police, firefighters and U.S. Coast Guard crews was underway to locate survivors.

FBI officials said agents were immediately sent to the bridge, arriving an hour after the collapse. At the White House, President Joe Biden held an early morning meeting with his advisors and ordered the use of resources to help in the rescue operation.

10 a.m. -- At a mid-morning news conference Tuesday, the governor announced that the preliminary investigation showed the incident appeared to be a tragic accident.

"The preliminary investigation points toward an accident," Moore said. "We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack."

12:46 p.m. -- During a press conference Tuesday afternoon from the White House, Biden addressed the bridge collapse. "We’re going to send all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency," he said, referring to his conversation with Baltimore officials.

"We're incredibly grateful for the brave rescuers who immediately rushed to the scene. And to the people of Baltimore, we want to say, we're with you, we're going to stay with you for as long as it takes," said Biden.

The president echoed local, state and federal officials who said investigators have found no evidence linking the incident to terrorism. Biden called it a "terrible incident and accident."

2:30 p.m. -- Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, says at a news conference that the agency's investigators arrived at the scene at 6 a.m. Tuesday and were launching their probe of the bridge collapse.

7:30 p.m. -- On Tuesday night, the U.S. Coast Guard said it would be suspending search and rescue efforts and began recovery efforts at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

"Based on the length of time that we've gone in the search, the extensive search efforts that we put into it, the water temperature -- at this point, we do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath told reporters.