The history of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge

ByKiara Alfonseca ABCNews logo
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Urgent search and rescue underway after major Baltimore bridge collapse
A ship struck Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, sending vehicles and people into the water, officials said.

BALTIMORE -- A cargo ship struck Baltimore's historic Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday, causing a structural collapse and plunging multiple vehicles from the bridge into the water.

The 1.6-mile bridge on the I-695 beltway crosses the Patapsco River, where Key was inspired to write the words of the U.S. national anthem in 1814, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).

The vessel Zhen Hua 13 passes under the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.
The vessel Zhen Hua 13 passes under the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

"The Star-Spangled Banner" and Francis Scott Key

In September 1814, after a 25-hour bombardment from British forces against U.S. soldiers at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Key watched as U.S. soldiers raised the American flag at the fort in defiance of the attacks, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

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This sight inspired Key to write "The Defense of Fort M 'Henry," a four-line stanza that "spread like wildfire," according to the NPS. This would later be retitled "The-Star Spangled Banner" and set to the tune of an existing song, "To Anacreon in Heaven," before, in 1931, it officially became the U.S. national anthem.

At the time, Key was helping negotiate with British forces for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prominent physician who had been captured prior to the Battle of Baltimore, according to the NPS.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has declared a state of emergency following the collapse

Key, after whom the bridge was named, was also an advisor to Andrew Jackson, served as the district attorney for the District of Columbia from 1833 to 1841, and was a slave owner, according to the NPS.

Construction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Construction on the bridge, which was intended to ease traffic and maintenance concerns regarding the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel that serviced the waterway, began in 1972 and finished in March 1977, according to the MDTA, at an estimated cost of $110 million.

Including its connecting approaches, the bridge project is 10.9 miles in length and has an annual traffic volume of 11.3 million vehicles, the MDTA reports.

Tuesday morning, the container ship Dali, a Singapore-flagged vessel, struck the bridge at about 1:30 a.m., according to MarineTraffic, a maritime tracking company.

Video shows Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse after ship strike