one of the last people to leave the Baltimore bridge before its collapse speaks

(CNN) — It was just after 1 a.m. on March 26, and Larry DeSantis was headed to his second job at Herman’s Bakery in the Baltimore area—the middle of another long but normal workday.

When a ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing its catastrophic collapse, DeSantis had a shocking brush with death.

He believes he was one of the last people to leave the bridge before the deadly collision. In an interview with CNN, DeSantis recalls how he crossed by focusing “on the guys (who were) on the bridge” and trying to drive carefully around them.

“I didn’t really even see the ship. I just focused on what was in front of me.”

The only indication that anything was wrong was what DeSantis described as a lack of vehicles, even for that early morning hour.

“There was another vehicle behind me,” he said. “It was a tractor, but it didn’t have a trailer because I actually pulled in front of it just as we started to go over the bridge.”

Traffic camera footage from the last five minutes before the collision shows a vehicle that could match DeSantis’ and the timing of what appears to be a semi-trailer following him, although the video is not entirely clear. .

Larry DeSantis says he feels lucky to have survived the Baltimore bridge collapse. (Credit: Omar Jimenez. CNN/Zoom)

Only six more cars passed through that lane before the 288-metre container ship collided with one of the bridge’s pillars at 1:29 a.m.

The landslide threw vehicles and people into the frigid Patapsco River. Six workers who were repairing potholes on the bridge were reported missing. The bodies of two of them were recovered, while the other four were presumed dead.

“If I had stopped to talk to someone, to my coworker, one minute I probably wouldn’t be here today,” DeSantis said.

Minutes after crossing the bridge, DeSantis’ other workplace called him to check on him.

“Someone called me about two minutes later and said, ‘Where are you?’ It was from my other job,” she said. “I told them I just went over the bridge, and they said, ‘Well, you know, the bridge just collapsed.'”

Baltimore Bridge

View of the container ship “Dali”, flying the Singapore flag, after colliding with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. (Credit: Harford County MD Fire & EMS/Reuters)

DeSantis said he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Once he got to work, a coworker told him, “‘I’m glad to see your car was out there,’ because they thought maybe I could have been on that bridge at that time.”

And he almost was.

Baltimore Bridge Survivor

This undated photo shows Larry DeSantis driving across the Francis Scott Key Bridge. (Credit: Courtesy of Kristina DeSantis Geineder)

“I’ve been very tired this week because of the amount of hours I’ve been working, but it makes you think a lot, really,” he said. “I can’t believe what has happened to me. I consider myself very lucky.”

DeSantis has been in the Baltimore area his entire life and only remembers one other time when he looked toward the Patapsco River and didn’t see the bridge: “I remember when they were building it,” he said.

The Francis Scott Key opened in 1977 and serves 30,000 Marylanders each day. The port — the ninth in the US for international cargo — is now blocked by debris. Ships can still move through the Port of Baltimore, which received $80.8 billion in foreign goods in 2023, according to the state government, but larger shipments will have to wait until debris is removed from the bridge.

Now, when DeSantis looks out and sees the river where the monument used to be, he shares the sentiment of many Marylanders.

“It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

— CNN’s Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.

 
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