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Maryland Officials Give Update on Baltimore Bridge Collapse; Active Search and Rescue Underway as Officials Update Bridge Collapse; Now, Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Abortion Pill Case. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 10:00   ET



PAUL WIEDEFELD, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Just a few updates since our meeting this morning, the crew that was out there working was basically repairing potholes, just so you understand that had nothing to do with a structural issue at all in the facility. At this time, one person has been rescued insofar, and our continuing -- efforts continue in terms of that.

Engineers are on site right now, determining both some of the structural issues, obviously, some of the debris field and we'll start to work that but we work hand-in-hand with the NTSB before we take any further action in that area.

With that, I did want to introduce the FBI for a few comments as well.

WILLIAM DELBAGNO, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Hello, my name is Bill DelBagno. I'm the special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office.

First and foremost, so I want say that our hearts go out to everyone that is impacted by this tragedy especially the victims and their families.

On behalf of the FBI, I would like to say that we are with you we're with Baltimore and we, with the partners, every step of the way.

The FBI, on very first, looking at and assessing this matter from an investigative standpoint, I want to be clear that there is no specific or credible information to suggest that there are ties to terrorism in this incident.

The FBI has been part of this response from the beginning. We came within one hour to the command post and quickly latched up with our very strong partners all along the way. We will bring whatever resources that the FBI has to bear.

We've already brought our crisis response, our victim services and just recently our underwater search evidence recovery teams are on site, and we will continue to provide all those resources as long as it takes. And as the investigation goes on we will take it to its logical conclusion along with our partners. To the people of Baltimore, to the public, I ask you to be patient as we go through this and as information becomes available to us.

And, lastly, I want to say thank you. Thank you to our partners. Thank you to everyone who -- in the FBI and counts on the FBI, we will always bring what we need to the people of Baltimore and we are with you.

Next, I'd like to introduce the Coast Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. The Coast Guard is still actively searching at this time. We are using response boat crews from two of our local Coast guard stations one of our helo (ph) crews at Air Station Atlantic City and also one of the cutter crews on one our 87- foot patrol boats. We will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners during this tragedy. Thank you.

REPORTER: As far as you are aware, was the collapse of that bridge inevitable as that ship hit that part of the bridge?

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): No. We're still in the process of investigating exactly what happened. So, we don't have any further details about whether or not it was inevitable or not.

REPORTER: No structural issue with the bridge?

MOORE: No. In fact, the bridge was actually fully up to code. So, we have no further information about what happened.

REPORTER: Governor, is all shipping in and out of the port now stopped completely? And do you have any estimate very early on as to how long it will be before shipping can resume to the port?

MOORE: Yes. We don't have any estimates on timeline, because, right now, our exclusive focus is on saving lives. Our exclusive focus is on search and rescue.

REPORTER: Can you give us a better sense for the number? Because we've heard -- I know Mr. Wiedefeld said one at the rescue, but earlier from Baltimore, we heard that two have been rescued. Can you tell us the total numbers we're talking about that may be -- that you're searching for and how many have had been rescue?

MOORE: Well, there are eight individuals, six are being searched for right now. One was taken to the hospital and one is right in the hospital that we're speaking to.

REPORTER: So, six unaccounted for?


REPORTER: And does that involve individuals that may have been in vehicles that were underwater? (INAUDIBLE)?

MOORE: We believe it's a construction crew.

REPORTER: So, you don't think there's any (INAUDIBLE)?

MOORE: No, we do not believe so.

REPORTER: Governor, two questions quick. How quickly did you find out about what happened here?


And what was your reaction when you heard the scale of what just occurred at that bridge earlier today?

MOORE: Well, I mean, I -- it was -- I think it was probably within minutes of everything, less than an hour when I know that my phone first rang on, and, you know, first from the mayor of Baltimore and also from our chief of staff.

And it was -- we know the Key Bridge. I've ridden over the Key Bridge countless times. So many of us know the Key Bridge because it is our normal commute. This is a place that is a normal commute route for over 30,000 Marylanders every single day.

And so to hear the words that the Key Bridge has collapsed, it's shocking and heartbreaking. And immediately are the first thought and the first ideas go back to what happened to the people, where we -- what was the impact on human life.

But for every single one of us who are Marylanders, the words that the Key Bridge is gone. It still shakes us, because for over -- for 47 years, that's all we've known. And so this is not just not just unprecedented from what we're seeing and what we're looking at today, it's heartbreaking.

REPORTER: Governor, can you confirm that the crew on the ship alerted authorities that it had lost propulsion?

MOORE: We can confirm that the crew notified authorities of a power issue.

REPORTER: And that they had lost power on the ship?


REPORTER: Was there any effort to shut down the bridge?


WIEDEFELD: A total of eight -- excuse me, a total of eight, one rescued, in a hospital, one not in a hospital, but it is, so we have communicated with that person, and then six that we are searching for.


WIEDEFELD: Yes, they were all related to the construction program, yes.

REPORTER: So, we heard that multiple vehicles went into the water. Any word on how many vehicles went into the water and the condition of those people that were in the vehicle?

WIEDEFELD: Not a at this time.

REPORTER: Was there any way to shut down the bridge? Was there enough time for that distress call to trigger something like that?

MOORE: Now, the thing that we know is that, you know, even as the boat was coming in, you know, we had a ship that was coming in at eight knots, so coming in at a very rapid speed.

We do know that the investigation is currently going on. But I have to say, I'm thankful for the folks who -- once the warning came up and once notification came up, that there was a mayday, who, literally, by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge, these people are heroes. They saved lives last night.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). But looking forward, is there any vision for how long it could possibly take to move the wreckage to rebuild and how it could possibly be done? Can you look into the future at all at this point?

MOORE: This is going to be a long-term build. It's going to be a build that's going to require every facet and every aspect of our society. It is something that I can tell you we are going to get this done. We are going to make sure that this is not just rebuilt, but that we are going to rebuild in a way that remembers the people who this tragedy has impacted and also do it in a way that honors the community that it serves.

But right now, I could not give you any form of investment on timing or cost. Right now, my and all of our exclusive focus is we're just trying to save lives.


MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT (D-BALTIMORE, MD): Yes, thank you. Listen, we know the governor issued a state of emergency, but we at the local level felt the need to do that, too, because there may be some things that we have to encumber with fire department and other agencies that will be able to pull down support for as we all work together again, as we're focused right now on saving lives and working through this unspeakable tragedy.

REPORTER: In the interim, I know that there's obviously the focus is on the rescue and the recovery. But this is such an important thoroughfare here in all the more for drivers, people trying to get around. How are they going to manage while that is also going on?

MOORE: Yes. So, we've also already been in touch with people about alternative routes and ways people can navigate now that this tragedy has happened. And I don't know, Secretary, if you want to speak to that as well.

WIEDEFELD: Just give you a sense of scale, roughly about 35,000 people a day use that facility.


About double that use the Harbor Tunnel, and double that, again, use the Fort McHenry Tunnel. So, basically, we have those two other options.

We'll make sure that we have as much personnel out there to deal with any incidents, because, as you know, that can cause the backups very quickly and we will basically put out a lot of communication on different alternatives. We're also looking at transit alternatives as well.

REPORTER: Governor, (INAUDIBLE) in this response? What role will the legislature play in this response? Are there any policies, any (INAUDIBLE)?

MOORE: Yes, no. So, we are in fact, you know, we have our Senate president here. We have members of the legislature here. The legislature is going to have a role in all this, as will our local elected officials, as will state officials, as will the federal government. You know, everybody is going to have a role in terms of how we think about the rebuild.

REPORTER: Governor, how long do you expect shipping to be closed down in the port? Do we have any estimate in terms of the port here?

MOORE: We don't at this point. We don't at this point.


MOORE: Correct, yes. And we don't have an estimate on timeline as of yet. Our focus really is right now and just make sure we're saving lives.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE), are they able to get (INAUDIBLE)?

MOORE: I'm sorry, say it again.


MOORE: You know, with the one that's captured under the -- is that what --


MOORE: Oh, yes. That one, that one is still at port, yes.

REPORTER: One last question. Was the ship being guided out by tugs, firstly? And, secondly, did you just say that it issued a mayday in enough time that you were able to stop all traffic from entering both sides so that the only casualties we expect were other workers on the bridge?

MOORE: Yes, ma'am. So, the investigation is still going on. So, we're going to have all the full details and also all the full details about the timeline and the tick tock that took place. But we're thankful that between the mayday and the collapse that that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge. And I can --

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) on the bridge or not? Were there any --

MOORE: During the collapse?

REPORTER: Yes. Were there some on the bridge? There have been reports that have been sonar that have detected vehicles at the bottom of the water. So, as well as the eight people, there could still be people trapped inside or potentially have died in vehicles, is that correct?

WIEDEFELD: I think, well, the investigation is still going on to find out exactly how many people in what situation. But the thing that we do know is that many of the vehicles were stopped before they got onto the bridge, which saved lives in a very, very heroic way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much. Thank you. We'll have another update later. Thank you.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That was Maryland Governor Wes Moore along with other state and federal officials briefing the public on the situation with this massive calamity in Baltimore, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

I want to go to CNN's Pete Muntean and Gabe Cohen as we're following this breaking news out of Baltimore at this hour.

Pete, let me start this coverage from you. What stood out to you? I mean, I do think we got some answers to some outstanding questions from earlier this morning. The governor at one point telling a reporter right there at the end of the news conference and at another point during the news conference that there was a power outage, it sounds like, on this vessel, that that outage was reported to the bridge. And it sounds as though the governor was saying right there at the end of the news conference that they were able to shut down the bridge to traffic and that may have saved lives. And so they're looking for, what, about six people right now as the search and rescue efforts are still underway. What can you tell us, Pete?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: We're learning some really interesting key new details that we have not heard before, Jim. One is that there was a heroic effort by those who are on the bridge of this 950-foot long container ship out of -- sailing to Sri Lanka that they were able to issue a Mayday call when it apparently became apparent to them that they were going to collide with the bridge, which Maryland Governor Wes Moore says may have saved lives, that kept more cars from going across the Key Bridge here between the east side of the Patapsco River in Dundalk, where we are to the west side of the Patapsco River in the continuation of Interstate 695, which is the Baltimore Beltway that is really critical.

We also learned some other new details, this boat was going at about eight knots, which is very slow, but consider the fact that this boat is about 100 of tons. So, a lot of inertia, a lot of mass as it hit this piling of the Key Bridge, which you can see over my shoulder there. Essentially, the remainder of the bridge is a bridge to nowhere and the suspension portions of the bridge now submerged in the Patapsco River. Wes Moore also said very interestingly that this boat -- Wes Moore also said that this bridge was up to code, that there was no real issue with the bridge before this collision.


We've also heard a little more specifics on the numbers of those who are missing, eight people, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedeefeld, were working on the key bridge doing deck work, repairing potholes at the time of this collision at 1:28 in the morning. Six of them are now missing, unaccounted for, two have been accounted for. One is in the hospital right now. One is not in the hospital that not need further treatment.

So, the search is continuing, according to the Coast Guard, which we heard from here with helicopters and with boats of the banks of the Patapsco River and Curtis Bay to try and find those six missing people now unaccounted for. The focus right now is still on a rescue operation, not a recovery operation, as they try and find these unaccounted for workers who were on the Key Bridge at the time.

Some other really interesting details here also from the FBI and from Maryland Governor Wes Moore, he underscores that this is not an act of terrorism, that this was an apparent accident, which is a question that many people had as they saw this video surfacing online of this container ship veering for the big piling there in the Patapsco River here, really, really critical new details just coming to light, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, absolutely. Pete Muntean, thank you very much.

Gabe Cohen, if you can stand by for just one moment, I want to bring in the fire chief, James Wallace, of the Baltimore City Fire Department. Chief Wallace, thank you for being on the line with us.

I've driven over this bridge many times over the years. I know how critical it is to the Baltimore area, Marylanders who travel around this region and that shipping and industrial sector of the economy over there. It's just a vital artery of that area.

But I guess the more pressing concern right now is that you have a rescue mission underway. Where does that stand right now, if you can tell our viewers?

CHIEF JAMES WALLACE, BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, sir. Thank you and good morning. So, we received this call around 0140 hours this morning, and by 0150 hours, we had resources on the scene and we began to deploy resources onto the water. We've had boats -- multiple boats out since then. We continue to have additional resources arrive. We also were able to quickly deploy via the Maryland State Police air assets. So, it was very important to get infrared technology not only on the water but also in the air above the scene.

As far as where we are now, we have, as of about an hour ago, and I suspect this number has probably increased a little bit, we had eight dive teams that were deploying out onto the incident scene itself, which encompasses about 50 divers. Those dive teams continue to be supported by air resources. But they've been able to kind of map the area and develop a dive plan and then deploy out and they're beginning the search in a subsurface manner, if you will.

ACOSTA: And, Chief, if you can just help us kind of walk through the timeline of events, as best as you understand them, because we heard the governor there a few moments ago tell reporters that his understanding is that there were people on board that ship who experienced this power outage. They called that into, I guess, authorities who run the bridge, is that correct, and alerted them to this power outage and that the ship was heading towards the bridge and then the bridge was shut down? Do you have any information that can help us kind of fill in the blanks as to that timeline there?

WALLACE: Yes, I really can't add anything to it. It appears as though with the position of the vessel, it was outbound Baltimore Harbor. You know, obviously, it did strike the bridge. But the events that had led up to this actual incident, I've been just laser focused on the search and rescue operation. I have really not had time to be briefed on those type of details, sir.

ACOSTA: I understand. And so, Chief, let me ask you about the rescue part of this. Earlier in the day, we had heard that there were cars spotted in the water. Can you tell us about that part?

WALLACE: Yes. The last brief I got on that, and that's been almost two hours ago, we've, in addition to the technologies I spoke about with infrared, we're also using side scan sonar technology. We have that available to us on multiple vessels that are out right now actively searching.


What I'm told is we've been able to mark what they believe to be three passenger vehicles. They've also been able to mark what they believe to be three passenger vehicles. They've also been able to mark a cement truck and we believe we've marked a fifth vehicle. I don't know the nature of the vehicle whether it's a passenger vehicle or work vehicle. But right now, we believe we've marked five vehicles.

ACOSTA: And tell us about the challenging conditions that your rescuers encountered earlier this morning. I understand the water temperature is about 48 degrees. I mean, this must have been a very difficult mission for your teams.

WALLACE: Water temperature was 48 degrees. We were in probably the low, the low, maybe mid-40s with regard to air temperature. It got very windy after about an hour down here. But I think the one factor that, in any type of operation that's search and rescue, but especially on the water, the one factor that we were really battling was nightfall. It was it was obviously very dark.

So, when we deployed people onto the water, we were lucky that we had clear skies overhead and we were able to give them aircraft reconnaissance above us and that over-watch factor when we put people out, we didn't dive in darkness.

Our search in and of itself was a surface search as opposed to subsurface where we are now. But it's very challenging given the amount of wreckage and, you know, just those factors.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, Chief, I was going to ask you about that. I mean, were your crews pulling people out of the water under the wreckage? Was the wreckage sort of all around them when they were doing this, conducting this operation? I mean, that must have been absolutely harrowing.

WALLACE: So, they'll search around the wreckage to the best of their ability, but this incident in and of itself all really presented a potential for secondary collapse, right? There had already been a catastrophic collapse. There're still certain elements of the bridge that are up, as well as the bridge on the bow of the boat.

So, it's a dynamic of an incident like this operating in a space of uncertainty that just makes things very difficult. Add darkness to it, it becomes dangerous.

ACOSTA: All right, absolutely, and hats off to your teams for all the heroic work that they do. Chief Wallace, thank you very much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

WALLACE: Yes, sir. Thank you.

ACOSTA: And we're going to have more coverage of the Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore right after a short break.

Stay with us.



ACOSTA: Right now, reproductive rights are back on the Supreme Court docket nearly two years after the landmark ruling Roe versus Wade was overturned. The high court is hearing critically important oral arguments in a case that could restrict access to the widely used abortion drug, Mifeprostone, even in states where the procedure is still allowed.

The pill is one of two drugs used in reproductive health care, including for medication abortions and treatments for miscarriage. Just last year, research shows it was used in 63 percent of all abortions nationwide.

The Supreme Court, which has a conservative supermajority, now has to decide if the FDA overstepped its authority by making it easier to access this drug.

We're going to listen into oral arguments right now. Let's go to that now.

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT: -- more frequent emergency room care visits related to the use of Mifepristone when dispensed by mail from the clinic. There are no apparent increases in other serious adverse events related to Mifepristone use.

Does that really count as a reasoned explanation to the suggestion that the data shows there are going to be more emergency room visits? The increase in emergency room visits is just of no consequence. It doesn't even merit some comment.

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR, SOLICITOR GENERAL: That is a reasoned explanation. What FDA was observing in that passage is that, although it acknowledged the fact that some of the studies reported additional emergency room visits that didn't equate to additional serious adverse events. And, in fact, one of the studies, half of the women who went to the emergency room didn't get any treatment at all.

Many women might go because they're experiencing heavy bleeding, which mimics a miscarriage, and they might just need to know whether or not they're having a complication. But in that kind of circumstance, the woman is not having a serious adverse event from Mifepristone, and so it doesn't call into question the safety determinations regarding the drug.

And, you know, at the end of the day, FDA carefully parsed those studies. It made specific determinations about the results to be gleaned with respect to safety and efficacy. It fully explained its decision-making, and I think it falls well within the zone of reasonableness under arbitrary and capricious review.

ALITO: All right, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Sotomayor?

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: On that last question, because that did trouble me, but the reality is even if there is some increase in emergency room visits the question of when that rises to a sufficient safety risk is up to the FDA, correct?

PRELOGAR: That's right. And, you know, FDA acknowledged it. So, it's not like it overlooked this aspect of the studies. I also want to emphasize, Justice Sotomayor, that the studies were far from the only evidence FDA consulted.

At the time it acted in 2021, it had real world experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of time when the in-person dispensing requirement was not enforced.


And FDA started by looking at, as a comparative analysis, the two periods of time when you had in-person dispensing.