On March 26, 2024, tragedy struck Baltimore, Maryland when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed. The destruction happened in less than 30 seconds early in the morning. This catastrophe resulted in the death of six construction workers on the bridge.

In the minutes before the collapse, radios saved lives. From police reports and boat records, this calamity proves how important radios continue to be in everyday events like bridge maintenance.

What Happened?

Although an old structure, the Francis Scott Key (FSK) Bridge was a reliable bridge for many travelers and everyday commuters. On March 26th, the Dali—a cargo ship—lost power to the ship controls. Consequently, the cargo ship veered towards a support pillar of the renowned bridge.

Once this main support was struck, the bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River. Due to the quick collapse and the high-traffic reputation of the bridge, it is shocking that more lives were not lost. Thankfully, a radio transmission was heard by police officers that the boat was going to derail.

Officers moved quickly to stop any traffic moving onto the bridge. If police officers had not received this communication, then many more lives could have been lost. Sadly, this transmission of warning was not picked up by the radios used by the construction workers.

Reports show the construction crew had radios and were aware of the oncoming Dali ship but were not made aware of the loss of control. Additional information about the safety standards of the crew has been released with questions about these standards arising after their deaths.

Crew Safety with Bridge Maintenance:

There are many safety standards that construction companies must follow to ensure the safety of the crew. These expectations and requirements are numerous when there is construction on a bridge. The typical requirements for roadwork include signs, flags, flashing lights, and two-way radio communication.

When crews are working on a bridge, there are additional requirements. According to HHC Safety Engineering experts, there should always be a skiff in the water below the bridge for two reasons: to communicate any suspicious issues in the water the crew cannot see and to act as an immediate rescue if the bridge collapses or anyone ends up in the water.

Reports from witnesses and satellite images show there was no skiff or safety crew from the construction company in the vicinity of the bridge. In addition to the skiff, the construction crew is supposed to have two-way radios to communicate. Construction crews use a different frequency than first responders to limit interruptions.

Unfortunately, because of this separation, the workers did not hear the warnings from the dispatcher relaying the mayday from the Dali.

How Radios Continue to Save Lives in the Everyday World:

The FSK Bridge collapse is a prime example of how radios save lives. As stated previously, police officers were able to keep cars from going across the bridge at the time of the collapse by responding to a dispatch of the mayday.

Construction crews are required to have two-way radios on their person to communicate among the crew. In this situation, if there was a skiff in the water, there is a chance that maybe the crew could have been warned of the impending collapse and gotten off the bridge.

Two-way radios provide consistent and clear communication in the most dangerous events. This technology allowed first responders to communicate in real time while searching for the crew in the water. Because of this calm communication, responders were able to locate and rescue two workers and bring them to the hospital.


The Key Bridge collapse was a tragedy for the families of the construction crew who lost their lives. Fortunately, with a mayday call and a diligent dispatcher, two-way radios saved lives on March 26th.

With the collapse, it is a humbling reminder of the importance of supporting and furthering critical communications technology like two-way radios and the corresponding accessories.






DEANNA PARENTI is a Marketing Copywriter at Waveband Communications. With her experience in critical communications, she helped safety clients enhance their team communication through the help of two-way accessories.

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