Catholic group supporting Dali cargo ship crew weeks after Baltimore Key Bridge collapse

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The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the container ship Dali, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Baltimore, as seen from Riviera Beach, Md. An effort to remove sections of the collapsed bridge resting on the Dali was postponed on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)(AP/Mark Schiefelbein)

About two weeks ago, Andrew Middleton spent several hours with the 21 crew members who have been on board the Dali cargo vessel ever since it crashed into Baltimore’s Key Bridge in late March.

As director of the local Apostleship of the Sea, Middleton had been keeping in regular contact with the group. They reached out to him via WhatsApp in the days leading up to the crash to coordinate a trip to do errands before its trip to Sri Lanka. In early May, he and Bishop Adam Parker boarded the vessel.

Parker, according to Middleton, was able to celebrate Mass on board for the handful of Catholic crew members.

The group was reserved at first, but Middleton said an icebreaker, during which crew members said their names and where they are from, changed that. Afterward, they were “willing to joke around and poke a little fun at one another,” he said.

In the almost two months since the Dali collided with the Key Bridge, the crew members have remained on board the vessel. Federal investigators took their cellphones and gave them new ones. They remained on the ship Monday, while controlled explosions were set off to help push lingering pieces of the bridge away from ship.

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It’s unclear exactly when the channel will be able to reopen and the Dali will be able to dock. A spokesman for the Key Bridge Unified Command said there are still small pieces of debris preventing that from happening. He directed a question about whether the crew will remain on the ship when it returns to the port to Synergy Marine, the Dali’s management company based in Singapore.

“Morale seemed good. Everybody seemed happy considering all that they’ve been through and all that they’re going through,” Middleton said of his in-person interaction with the crew. “I didn’t see any outward signs of stress.”

The ship’s management company has been providing the crew with food and water, Middleton said. When he and a few others were on board, they brought care packages donated from Minnesota. They were shoe-box-sized totes with toiletries and playing cards.

“My understanding is that anything that they’ve needed, the management company has gotten for them,” Middleton said.

Middleton hasn’t been able to directly contact the crew recently, because they had their phones taken away.

In a statement, two unions representing the crew members, the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen, said the group suffered emotional distress from the incident and has an “unfounded fear of personal criminal liability.”

The crew is expected to remain on board the ship as the investigation continues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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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