‘Fought for his life’: How a construction worker was able to survive Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapse

As the Dali cargo vessel approached Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge last month, construction workers on it were repairing potholes.

In the seconds before the ship struck the bridge, its pilot made a mayday call that enabled local law enforcement to help stop any additional traffic from driving on the bridge.

But, according to attorneys for Julio Cervantes, one of two workers who fell fully into the water and survived, the crew wasn’t warned about the imminent collision. Instead, they said, the workers were sitting in their cars on a break.

Lawyers from the firms Stewart Miller Simmons and Kreindler & Kreindler are representing Cervantes and families of two of the workers who died.

“He fought for his life, and he survived,” attorney Justin Miller said of Cervantes during a news conference on Monday announcing their own investigation into the incident. The announcement came hours before officials said the body of a fourth construction worker killed during the collapse had been recovered.

More on the Baltimore Key Bridge collapse

As the bridge started to collapse, Cervantes watched as everyone fell into the water, attorney L. Chris Stewart said. He was able to survive, Stewart said, because his car’s window was manual. Cervantes was able to roll down the window and escape.

“You can imagine how frightening that is,” Stewart said.

Cervantes can’t swim, but he was able to hang on to a piece of debris.

“He was stranded on, I believe, it was a rock or a piece of metal that was floating by,” Stewart said.

First responders were ultimately able to rescue Cervantes. Rescuers pulled a second worker out of the water, who was treated at a hospital and discharged hours later.

“It’s left him with severe mental and emotional pain and suffering,” Stewart said about Cervantes. “He lost family members in that. Some of the workers were related, including some of his family who perished.”

When asked if there’s a protocol in emergency situations and whether the workers should have been warned, Stewart said, “We’ll learn more as the investigation is ongoing. We don’t have any further information on that right now.”

At the news conference, attorneys announced plans to launch their own investigation into the crash and take legal action against Grace Ocean, which owns the Dali.

Synergy Marine Group, which manages the ship, and Grace Ocean filed a court petition after the collapse seeking to limit their legal liability, The Associated Press reported. The companies, the attorneys said, are trying to cap the amount of money they would have to pay out by citing the Limitation of Liability Act.

The case is expected to proceed in September.

“As the bodies of our clients were still under the bridge, the owner of this boat was in court trying to protect their assets,” Stewart said.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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