It's on us. Share your news here.

USACE Philly District supports Key Bridge collapse response

Philadelphia District Supports Key Bridge Mission, March 2024.

Posted on May 20, 2024

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in late March 2024, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mobilized and began working with a unified team of federal, state, and local agencies with the goals of assessing the damage and, ultimately, restoring maritime navigation. The challenge has been historic as an estimated 50,000 short tons of steel and concrete fell across the total collapsed span of the bridge.

The Baltimore District has led the USACE response with support from teams and individuals from across the organization, including the USACE Philadelphia District’s survey team, structural engineers from the Bridge Inspection and Evaluation Regional Center of Expertise, and technical divers from the USACE Dive Team, including several from the Philadelphia District.

“I know our team members have served alongside many others throughout this important operation,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Beeman, USACE Philadelphia District commander. “I’m proud that we were able to mobilize quickly and sustain a level of support for our colleagues from Baltimore District. It’s a great example of organizations working together to solve complex problems.”

The Survey Mission

On the morning of Wednesday, March 27, USACE Philadelphia District survey crews met at Fort McHenry in the early morning after the bridge collapse. The teams headed to Baltimore aboard two Survey boats – the DAUNTLESS and the H.R. SPIES.

The survey team consisted of Jason Gray, Vince Lucante, and AJ Mottola on the DAUNTLESS, and Steve Barnes, Nick Spina, Joe Nudge aboard the SPIES. Bill Miller, hydrographic survey data processor, and Steve Farrell, Philly District’s chief of surveys, also supported the team in Baltimore.

During the initial response, crews remained on standby to begin surveying the channel.

“This time during the day allowed us to talk with project counterparts to set up before surveying, which included preparing project files before the survey and getting the equipment prepared,” said Farrell.

USACE Philadelphia crews were cleared to enter the area after 6 p.m. that night to survey about 1,500 feet on both sides of the collapsed bridge. The DAUNTLESS began surveying the southeast side of the debris field while the SPIES started further out.

This plan involved using the DAUNTLESS to run survey lines across the channel, parallel to the debris. Crews used side-scan sonar for the wide search to detect any hazards while mapping out the debris fields.

“There were lots of vessels throughout the channel during the day, so surveying at night worked out very well for us,” said Farrell.

This first survey reported no debris within 100 feet of the visible water line, however the following morning on March 28 crews met to discuss an image captured on the sonar during the previous survey that indicated an object was protruding from the riverbed. Crews from the DAUNTLESS sent the image to the team aboard the SPIES to have a remotely operated vehicle camera take a closer look. The object was ultimately referred to as “the spear” and was later removed by crews on April 1; the removal was critical to later opening an alternate channel for shallow-draft vessel transits.

Risks were considerable during these missions as debris, poor water visibility, and other hazards could impact the safety of the survey team.  Farrell explained that direct communication with the Incident Command Post, careful planning and teamwork between the vessels were essential in mitigating these risks.

Since the early days of this mission, the USACE Philadelphia District survey section has continued to provide periodic support to Baltimore District as needed.

Farrell commended the team for their commitment to the mission.

“There was an eagerness from our team to help and work together to support in any way possible,” said Farrell. “The teamwork was so outstanding.”

Other Support Missions

Other individuals from Philly District have also supported the unified response to the bridge collapse. Structural engineers who serve on the Regional Bridge Inspection and Evaluation Team were deployed initially and remained available to share expertise with the larger team.

Additionally, Steve England and Derek Burleigh provided support to diving operations associated with the mission. In England’s case, he deployed two days after the bridge collapse and helped with diver oversight in support of the Coast Guard.

“It was a great experience being down there and able to help facilitate conversations between different entities,” said England. “We talked with the Coast Guard about getting admitted into some of the dive safety classes that we teach. Derek Burleigh also talked to the Maryland State Police about supporting and integrating them as well since they were such an integral part of this mission.”

Col. Estee Pinchasin, the USACE Baltimore District commander, praised the Philly District teams for their support.

“Having the Philadelphia District team members here with their various areas of expertise was critical for setting the tone and tempo of the pace of this operation,” said Col. Estee Pinchasin, USACE Baltimore District commander. “We did not miss a single minute; it was a seamless transition from recovery to salvage. The moment those divers were out of the water, the survey team from Philly was there. We were moving with purpose and not wasting any time. It enabled us to perform that survey work—the highest priority for the captain of the port—in an extremely responsive manner, embracing this mission from day one.”

Philadelphia District Supports Key Bridge Mission, March 2024.

Philadelphia District Supports Key Bridge Mission, March 2024.


It's on us. Share your news here.
Submit Your News Today

Join Our
Click to Subscribe