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Baltimore bridge collapse: 2 bodies recovered, others still missing as effort switches to salvage operation

Maryland authorities say divers have recovered the bodies of two people during a search for the workers who plunged into the water after a cargo ship slammed into a Baltimore bridge.

Maryland authorities on Wednesday said divers recovered two bodies during a search for the workers who plunged into the water after a cargo ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday.

Divers found a red pickup truck submerged under approximately 25 feet of water in the middle span of the bridge and found the two bodies trapped inside.

Maryland State Police Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland Butler identified the victims as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore, and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk.

Butler said the men's families have been notified by authorities.

"Based upon the conditions, we're now moving from a recovery mode to a salvage operation because of the superstructure surrounding what we believe are the vehicles and the amount of concrete and debris; divers are no longer able to safely navigate or operate around that in the areas around this wreckage," Butler said.

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Four other construction workers remain missing, but are presumed dead. The victims were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Butler said.

All search efforts have been exhausted, and based on sonar scans, authorities "firmly" believe the other vehicles with victims inside are encased in superstructures and concrete from the collapsed bridge, Butler said.

A co-worker of the people missing said Tuesday that he was told the workers were on break and sitting in their trucks parked on the bridge when it crumpled.

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U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said at a news conference that authorities had been informed that the ship was going to undergo maintenance. He added that they were not informed of any problems.

The ship collided into a support pillar early Tuesday, causing the span to collapse. 

The investigation picked up speed as the Baltimore region reeled from the sudden loss of a major transportation link that's part of the highway loop around the city. The disaster also closed the port that is vital to the city's shipping industry.

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"The collapse of the Key Bridge is not just a Maryland crisis. The collapse of a key bridge is a global crisis," Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said during Wednesday afternoon's press conference. "The national economy and the world's economy depend on the port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in the country."

Synergy Marine Group, which manages the ship, said the impact happened while it was under the control of one or more pilots, who are local specialists who help guide vessels safely in and out of ports.

The ship, which was headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd., and Danish shipping giant Maersk said it had chartered the vessel.

The ship was traveling under a Singapore flag, and officials there said they will be conducting their own investigation in addition to supporting U.S. authorities.

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