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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Regarding Use of Abortion Medication Mifepristone; Large Ship Collides into Francis Scott Key Bridge over Patapsco River in Baltimore, Causing It to Collapse; Authorities Running Search and Rescue Missions in Patapsco River after Bridge Collapse; No Crew Members on Ship Injured During Baltimore Bridge Collapse, Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 08:00   ET



MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So that's more than 600,000 people accessing this medication. Now, the case today is focusing on one of two drugs used in this regimen. The drug is called mifepristone. The other drug used in this regimen is called misoprostol.

Now it has been approved by the FDA for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy since 2000. And right now, this is available in states that have abortion access. It's not available in states that have bands. There are 14 of those states.

There are additional 15 states that have put restrictions in place on medication abortion itself. But if the Supreme Court rules with the appeals court, which essentially has rolled back some of the accessibility of mifepristone, all of those states would be subject to the restrictions on access to this medication.

Some of the challenges here are around the safety of the medicine and whether the FDA acted appropriately. Scholars and experts in the pharmaceutical industry point out the safety of this medicine has been proven over the decades since it has been on the market. They say the risk of serious complications is about 0.3 percent using these medicines, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in just a few hours we are going to be paying attention to what the justices do as they consider whether to limit access to mifepristone. Thank you so much, Meg Tirrell. Appreciate it.

A new hour CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the major breaking news this morning, the entire bridge is in the water. You're looking at live stunning daylight images of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed in the Patapsco River in Baltimore right now. This is a major American roadway in a major American city, and it is simply under water this morning. There are search and rescue operations underway for as many as seven

people who perhaps fell in there. Can we bring the footage back up there so we can see it again, just how stunning this image is right there of that bridge in the water. It all happened overnight when a huge cargo ship, the DALI, rammed into a pylon holding up the bridge. We have footage of the moment that this happened. I can show it here on the wall for you right here.

There was the ship as it approached the pylon there, it struck the pylon, the bridge collapsed into the water. It is not clear why or how this vessel ran into that pylon, but officials tell us this morning there was absolutely no tie, no reason to expect any tie to terrorism. That bridge that you're looking at falling into the Patapsco River normally carries 31,000 vehicles a day. This was the 911 dispatch the moment it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He advised the entire bridge, the entire Ket bridge in the harbor. I advise again, the entire Key bridge has fallen into the harbor.


BERMAN: The entire Key bridge has fallen into the harbor, stunning words. Just to give you a sense of where this is, this is the Francis Scott Key Bridge. It is 695, the outer beltway around Baltimore. This is downtown Baltimore, the inner harbor so many people are familiar with, BWI Airport is down here. But you can see why this would be a heavily trafficked roadway. Maybe people headed to BWI, there's all kinds of warehouses right here. So this is an important bridge now completely underwater.

Are Gabe Cohen is on the scene right near the site where the bridge collapsed. Gabe, give us a sense of what you're seeing this morning.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we're a good distance down the Patapsco River from the Key Bridge, or what's left of it at this point. But if you look behind me, and we're going to zoom in, you can get a sense of this urgent rescue operation that's unfolding right now and has for several hours from the early morning hours today.

If you look as we zoom in, there are rescue boats, several of them. I've counted upwards of a dozen in the river that are trying to search for any potential survivors. Officials have said they're looking for it least seven people they believe who could be in the water. And as we show you this vessel, the ship itself, you can see the mangled pieces of the key bridge that a fallen onto the deck of the ship that are collapsed on the vessel itself.

We don't know the condition, any injuries on the boat, but if you actually look at the bridge up there, we have seen people moving around on the ship. So we know that there is a crew on board there. The Coast Guard has been in touch with them. We're still waiting for an update on their condition. As we pan to the left as well, we're seeing a lot of emergency vehicles just on shore, just on the edge of the riverbank who are talking to those rescuers.


They are working with them. Look, this whole area has been shut down since we arrived just after 3:00 a.m. We saw crews flying by arriving at the bridge at the river, and they are using every technology they have, John, to try to find people in these cars, including a sonar. We heard from officials about some of those tools. Take a listen to what one of them said earlier.


CHIEF JAMES WALLACE, BALTIMORE CITY FIRE: We need to do damage assessment of the ship itself before we can board that ship. And we need to continue our subsurface search, which is including different types of sonar. We have side scan sonar, we have other sonar capabilities here. We have underwater UAVs that we're working with. And throughout the night, we've also been working with infrared technology, both from the air and on the water surface.


COHEN: And John, I think this shot gives you a really good sense of the scale here. Those are some of those rescue boats in and behind it, the ship that crashed into the Key bridge. So you can see the size of this ship. It is massive, and that's why it so quickly, it seemed, brought the Key bridge down into the water.

And look, it is a huge area of this river that those rescuers are searching right now, because it is a massive span of the bridge that was lost when it collapsed. This is not some small section. It is quite a large section here. And so the water is choppy, frigid conditions out there. Rescuers have their hands full, and so officials quite emotional in the past couple of hours as they address the media on what is really an urgent and tragic situation.

BERMAN: If we keep these pictures up again for just a second here, this bridge, as you're saying, it is a steel truss bridge. These beams of steel pieced together here. And this expanse is thought to be one of the longest expanses for any steel truss bridge over Baltimore harbor. So when that huge cargo vessel almost 1,000 feet long struck that pylon, a lot of steel fell into the water right there.

As you said, we are getting word that there were some maintenance workers who were working on the bridge at the time overnight around 1:30. They may very well have been working on the road board level of the bridge, no reason necessarily to believe that the work they were doing had anything to do with the structure or structural integrity of the bridge itself.

All right, Gabe Cohen on the scene. Gabe, keep us posted as to what you see. Sara?

SIDNER: All right, thank you, John.

Investigators are right now in the very early stages, as you know, of their investigation into how this happened. Let's bring in CNN transportation correspondent Pete Muntean. You, Pete, have just arrived on the scene there in Baltimore. What can you share with us about how this investigation is going to be conducted with so many different agencies looking at what happened here?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big question now is when the NTSB will become a part of this. And of course, they will look into the reported power failure that was reported on this boat flag out of Singapore. There are some really big questions about the implication of what that means. Was that a power failure of the engines or was that a power failure of the electrical system, and what that drives? There were two reported flickers of the lights onboard the ship before it hit that piling of the key bridge here.

And that is so significant because they will want to know about the human factors, about the pilot on board the boat, the pilot who comes from the harbor to make sure that these ships are able to navigate the Patapsco River here going into the Port of Baltimore. But they will also want to know so critically about the systems and the contributing factors here.

The main thing they will want to see is whether or not this was a failure, specifically, of the boat, and then beyond that, what caused the bridge to collapse. You've seen the video, and it really after this collision folded like a cheap suit. The first thing was the collision. The second thing was the collapse.

And so, the National Transportation Safety Board is taking in information right now, they tell me, in conjunction and in tandem with the Coast Guard to see how this will go down. The investigation of course, only just unfolding, and it will likely take a year or 18 months or more to really figure out exactly why this ship apparently coasted into this pylon of the Key bridge here, and then what caused it to collapse.

We're also hearing from Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld about the work that was taking place on the top of this bridge. There were contractors here as part of the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Maryland Transportation contractors, who were doing deck work on the bridge.


And we have seen in the video the deck of the bridge essentially folded like a Hershey bar, coming off in large chunks. And so of course now the search is on for some of them who may have fallen into the river below. Of course, the water temperature is a big concern. Hypothermia sets in after not a very long period of time here. You've probably been in a swimming pool that's been pretty cold. Usually it feels cold around 80 degrees. The water temperature here, much, much colder.

And now that the sun is out, that is really aided the search here in a big way. You can hear the helicopters in the background. That appears to be a news helicopter. There was also the Maryland State Police out here earlier searching the air, also the Baltimore City Police searching for potential survivors here in the water. But there are so many questions here as to why this took place, and that is only just now unfolding.

SIDNER: Yes, and we should just keep mentioning that the most important thing right now for authorities is the search and rescue mission. It is urgent. They have several boats out. They have airpower looking down, and sonar looking at vehicles that authorities say have been detected in the water. And as time ticks on and those frigid temperatures, it becomes a very desperate situation to try to find anyone who has survived, who is still in those waters.

Pete Muntean, thank you so much for your reporting. We will come back to you. Let us know when you have something new. John?

BERMAN: Yes, one thing I can show you here, what Pete was just talking about right there. You can see the lights on in the vessel. The bridge collapses, and I can freeze it right here. You can see the lights are all out now on DALI, that huge cargo ship. The lights that actually flickered off even before it hit the pylon, what Pete is talking about right there, a possibility of risk, maybe some kind of power outage. You can see clearly a power outage now after it hit the bridge, but there was one maybe before as well. That will be the subject of the investigation this morning.

Our breaking news coverage of what happened in Baltimore, the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the Patapsco River will continue all morning long.

Also this morning, the fate of a widely abortion pill, the most widely used abortion pill in the country hangs in the balance at the U.S. Supreme Court.

And then new overnight, federal raids on two homes owned by Sean Diddy Combs. Now CNN is told Combs is the target of an investigation.



SIDNER: All right, we continue with our breaking news: An urgent search and rescue effort is still underway in Baltimore after a huge container ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge overnight, sending people plunging into the river below.

Now, we are just getting this new information in right now. This is from the Port Authority. The Port Authority is saying that the Dali, that's the name of that cargo ship there was involved in an incident in Belgium in 2016.

We are also hearing from the ship management company this morning, and we are learning that Synergy Group, that is the owner of the ship says that no crew members were injured, and that was a question because you see there the ship with the bridge collapsed on top of that deck and there was word that there may have been workers working and out on that deck at the time of this accident.

All right, let us get now to Baltimore County Executive, Johnny Olszewski.

Thank you so much, sir, for joining us now.

What can you tell us? Is there any update for us this morning on the investigation here into what happened?

JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Yes, I mean, first of all, my heart goes out to everyone impacted by this absolute tragedy. It feels like a nightmare for all of us in the Greater Baltimore region.

I can tell you that the investigation is underway even as we are very much focused on the search and rescue and search and recovery efforts. Our first responders have been working around the clock since very early one o'clock, two o'clock this morning.

With the sun coming up, we are now finally able to go in and begin dive operations. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that before, but what I can say is the investigations on what happened, how this happened is also happening.

But right now, our focus has very much been on the search and rescue and the search and recovery efforts here in this situation.

SIDNER: You say that now finally, in the morning light, you've been able to get folks down and diving into these frigid temperatures.

Can you give me some sense of just how difficult this is going to be? What kind of expanse you are having to search? For what we heard from the mayor and the fire chief, were at least seven people, they believe to be missing at this point, is that still correct?

OLSZEWSKI: That is right. Our most recent intelligence is that we have at least seven people who are impacted.

The conditions are difficult, right? We are talking about a deep channel port. Its 40 to 50 feet of water, strong currents. The weather is windy. The water is cold, and so we certainly worry about those who are in water, not to mention the fall from the bridge for folks who we know. We know that there were individuals working on the bridge.

We've also identified with side-scanning sonar that there were cars on the decks so you know, we are really just focusing our efforts on again that's --

SIDNER: Mr. Olszewski, we just lost you for just a few seconds, so I'd like you to sort of continue to talk about the fact that you have these sonar that is showing that there are definitely cars that are submerged, likely fallen from the deck.

We are again looking at the picture of the bridge itself this morning, which is crumpled over the top of the cargo ship and now you're saying dive crews have been able to actually go into the water and try and rescue anyone who has fallen into the water.


So far, you have confirmed that we are still looking at up to seven people who may be submerged in that water.

John, you know, as you were listening to the Baltimore County executive, who we've had some technical difficulties with, they've been able to put the dive crews in the water now finally. That is a really significant development here because the search and rescue is what everyone is concentrating on right now, trying to save lives.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, as many as seven people they say could be in the water. The search efforts are underway, not just the cars, which is so interesting that they are spotting with the sonar underwater, but also the work crews that were on the surface of the bridge, maybe filling in the concrete, the road surface of the bridge, not the structural integrity of the bridge, but they were working on top of the bridge, they could have fallen into the water as well.

Hopefully, we will get an update on those search and rescue operations soon as they've been ongoing all morning long.

And we did learn that there was a prior incident involving this ship some time ago somewhere else. But one of the things they are looking into right now is the power -- the power situation on this vessel. And I don't mean to keep showing the moment of impact here, but you can see the power was -- well, the power was lost on this ship the moment that it hit the pylon of the bridge.

Prior to that, there were some flickering as well, so there are some questions about the power and what was guiding that ship before it hit the pylon.

We will be following this all morning long. Much more information coming in.

Another major story this morning, the fate of the most widely used abortion pill in the country hangs in the balance at the Supreme Court. Arguments begin there shortly.



BERMAN: All right, the breaking news. These are the live pictures we are getting back from Baltimore right now.

That was the Francis Scott Key Bridge, a major bridge, Interstate 695 in Baltimore, it collapsed overnight and you can see why. That is a huge cargo vessel, the Dali, registered out of Singapore, which rammed into a pylon supporting the bridge overnight causing the bridge to simply crumble, to collapse, what you see there. Some 31,000 vehicles a day normally cross that bridge. We do understand, we have been told there are search and rescue

operations underway. The number they say they are looking for is seven people, at least seven people they fear could be in the water. Sonar has detected several vehicles inside the water, and there were also some work crews on the surface of the bridge, working on some concrete stuff when the bridge collapsed.

It could be that there are people in the water. The search and rescue efforts are underway. There were two people pulled from the water right after the collapse. One completely uninjured, one in serious condition. But again, the search continues still for seven others in that still truss bridge.

Let me just show you where this is on the map right here so people can situate themselves to Baltimore.

Here is Downtown Baltimore. There is the Inner Harbor. This is 695. That is the Francis Scott Key Bridge that has now collapsed.

BWI Airport is down here, so you can see a major roadway right there, also very important for the moving of cargo. A lot of warehouses in the like right there as well.

Again, the search and rescue operations continue this morning, and we are going to update you as that comes in.

With me now is the Maryland Transportation Secretary, Paul Wiedefeld is on the phone with us right now.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us. Let me just first ask you, do you have any updates about the search and rescue operations in the water?


BERMAN: Mr. Secretary, if you can hear me, and thank you for being with us. Do you have any updates on the search and rescue operations in the water?

WIEDEFELD: It is still ongoing. We have every imaginable resource here, meaning from the federal, state, and local level, and that is what they're doing right now.

BERMAN: Anyone recovered at this point?

WIEDEFELD: We have one individual that we did take to shock trauma, and that is still -- again, they are still in that mode right now.

BERMAN: Okay, so as we wait and watch on the search and rescue operations, and obviously everyone thinking of the people who may have been affected, what questions do you have, Mr. Secretary, about how this happened?

WIEDEFELD: That will be -- we will get to all of those questions, you know, in time. And as you can imagine, what NTSB, Coast Guard and everyone is investigating will find, they will get to the bottom of those issues.

But right now, we are focusing on basically finding these people.

BERMAN: I get it. I absolutely understand that the search and rescue is the priority right now, but there are still some questions people have about understanding the process of what goes on in the harbor here in Baltimore, this major shipping port, big cargo ships like this. How are they piloted in and out of port?

Is it just the crew of the ship or is there a local pilot that takes them out of the harbor normally?

WIEDEFELD: There is a local pilot that takes them out of the harbor normally.

BERMAN: A local pilot that takes them out of harbor normally, and it is not an uncommon thing for ships to be going under this bridge at all, is it?

WIEDEFELD: No, we are an extremely busy port, ninth largest in the country, and one of the largest cargo ports in the country as well.

BERMAN: And anyone who has driven through Baltimore knows how beautiful the Inner Harbor is and how busy the harbor is in general, in terms of shipping. And I am not going to show the video now of the collapse, but obviously the ship ran into the pylon. How close do ships normally get to that support structure?

WIEDEFELD: If you look at it, it is off center of where it should be, if you see the video before the collapse.

BERMAN: All right, I am going to show the video. People can take my footage here. The screen, if you guys can take me, okay. Because the secretary was talking about this.

This is the vessel right there. That is the moment it strikes the pylon.