Sole survivor of Baltimore bridge wreck recounts moment he prayed while witnessing coworkers falling to deaths

Jul 11, 2024 | Latest News | 0 comments

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The only man to survive falling from Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed earlier this year recalled witnessing his coworkers and family plunging to their deaths as he prayed to God.

Julio Cervantes Suarez, 37, spoke about the fight for his life as his truck tumbled into the Patapsco River, for the first time during an interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday. 

Cervantes Suarez was filling potholes as part of a roadwork crew, which included his nephew and brother-in-law, on the bridge when a massive cargo ship lost power and crashed into one of its supporting columns on March 26.

Cervantes Suarez said he and the other men in the crew were sitting in their construction vehicles during a break when the bridge suddenly started crumbling beneath them. 

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As he witnessed his coworkers falling into the dark waters of the river, Cervantes Suarez said he asked God for forgiveness and to take care of his wife and kids.

He said he was still inside his truck when it struck the waters below and was miraculously able to manually roll down the window before his truck sank completely. 

“That’s when I realized what happened,” he told NBC News in Spanish. “I looked at the bridge, and it was no longer there.”

He recalled climbing out into the frigid water and, not knowing how to swim, clinging to a chunk of floating concrete from the bridge. He said that as he held onto the debris, he called out to his companions by name, but no one answered him.

Still in possession of his construction helmet, Cervantes Suarez used the attached flashlight to flag rescue boats as they arrived at the collapse site. Following his rescue, he was hospitalized for treatment of a chest wound.

Six other members of the construction crew died in the collapse, including Cervantes Suarez’s nephew and brother-in-law. An inspector working alongside the crew was able to run to safety and declined medical treatment.

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Police had shut down traffic to the bridge just before the Dali, a Singapore-flagged container ship, struck the support beam thanks to a last-minute mayday call from the ship’s captain. Police were unable to alert the construction crew in time.

Despite the immediate dispatch of salvage divers to the collapse, it took six weeks before all the bodies of the missing construction crew members were recovered. All of the victims were Latino immigrants who had moved to the U.S. for work opportunities.

Cervantes Suarez said he’s haunted by the fall and wracked with guilt over the loss of his nephew, brother-in-law and coworkers.

“They were good people, good workers, and had good values,” he said.

Officials have pledged to rebuild the bridge, which could cost at least $1.7 billion and take several years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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