Survivor of Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapse gives first account

Julio Cervantes Suarez was sitting in his truck in the early hours of March 26, with six other construction workers in their own vehicles, as they took a break from fixing potholes on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Then the 985-foot container ship Dali slammed into one of the bridge’s support pillars. The 37-year-old saw his co-workers vanish into the Patapsco River below.

After his own vehicle plunged into the water, Cervantes Suarez said he was unable to open any doors and had to manually roll down the windows to escape. He said he scaled a slab of concrete from the wreckage and waited for rescue workers.

Cervantes Suarez, one of two survivors, recounted the tragic incident to NBC News in his first interview. The footage aired Wednesday.

In the interview, Cervantes Suarez recalled searching for the other workers.

“I started to call out to each one of them by name,” he said in Spanish. “But no one answered me.”

He said Carlos Daniel Hernández, his nephew whom he considered a son, was the first to fall.

Cervantes Suarez told NBC that he didn’t think he would survive the fall.

“I thanked God for [the] family he gave me,” he said. “I asked him to take care of my wife and kids. And I asked for forgiveness for everything I’ve done.”

Cervantes Suarez, who told NBC that he still has physical pain, said he’s haunted by the fact that he had told Hernández to go to his car and rest.

“If I had told him to come with me, maybe it would have been different. Maybe he would be here with us,” Cervantes Suarez told the network.

Federal investigators are still scrutinizing the cause of the crash, which halted most trade at the Port of Baltimore and raised questions about whether federal and state authorities are prepared to prevent similar disruptions. The FBI has a separate, ongoing criminal investigation into whether the Dali’s crew knew of serious system problems before setting out.

Cervantes Suarez said he wants all responsible parties to “pay for the damage they have done,” including to the family of Hernández Fuentes, his brother-in-law. But, he told NBC, nothing can bring back what his family and others lost overnight.

“Because I know that money is not going to buy a hug from a father or a son,” he said.

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