Federal safety authorities are in the second week of their investigation into the cargo ship that hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, and little has been said publicly about their efforts so far.

In the most recent press briefing, conducted last Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said investigators had begun interviewing crew aboard the Dali, retrieved the ship’s voyage data recorder, a sort of black box, and gathered documents from the vessel that may point to why the Dali lost power and propulsion when it did. Six construction workers died when the bridge fell.

Leading the NTSB’s probe is Marcel Muise, a marine casualty investigator who served in the U.S. Coast Guard and captained oil drilling ships and rigs before joining the safety board.

Muise has been with the NTSB for six years, and the Key Bridge collapse is the largest disaster he has been tasked with overseeing since joining the agency. A spokesperson for the NTSB declined to make Muise available for an interview because of his role in the ongoing investigation, and Muise did not return a request for comment.

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Muise’s only public comments so far came in last week’s news conference where he read a preliminary timeline of the moments leading up to the Dali’s allision with the Key Bridge and gave an explanation about what information voyage data recorders capture. A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected within the month.

A review of Muise’s history and commentary from industry insiders paint a picture of a man with immense qualifications, deep ties to the maritime community and an investigator who will be thorough in his examination of the evidence, wherever it may lead. John Konrad, founder of gCaptain.com, a leading maritime industry news website, has known Muise for more than 15 years and described him as “very intelligent” and a “bit of a stoic.” Konrad said Muise is not one to go into the rumor mill and will stick to the facts at hand.

“He’s a full-fledged captain, he’s not an administrator who’s just going through the motions,” Konrad said.

Both men are Coast Guard licensed master mariners, meaning they are certified to captain maritime vessels of any size.

“Marcel managed a team of over 100 individuals on a drill ship, and that’s a highly technical operation,” Konrad added.

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Muise is a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, and a former classmate, Ben Strickland, wrote on social media that Muise is “one of the most professional marine inspectors/investigators I have ever known.” Strickland, a principal of international business development at Lockheed Martin, the aerospace and defense company, did not return a request for an interview.

While the Key Bridge collapse will be Muise’s largest-scale catastrophe as an investigator with the NTSB, he has experience with emergency situations. In his 20 years of service with the Coast Guard, including seven on active duty, Muise worked as a marine inspector and casualty investigator, according to an NTSB spokesperson. His LinkedIn page says Muise also worked in Mobile, Alabama, as part of the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Among Muise’s pre-NTSB assignments in the private sector was a stint in 2009 as captain of the Deepwater Horizon, the oil-drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Muise was not the captain at the time of the explosion. The disaster led to the death of 11 crew members and is one of the largest oil spills in history. Post-Deepwater Horizon, Muise describes his experience captaining other drilling ships as one focused on improving safety protocols and culture, according to his LinkedIn page.

And with the NTSB, Muise has mostly dealt with smaller-scale maritime disasters. He participated in the investigation into the 2018 sinking of a World War II-era amphibious vehicle near Branson, Missouri. Seventeen people died.

Muise also examined the survival factors at play for a 2019 fire aboard the Conception, a dive boat that went up in flames off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in California. Thirty-three passengers and a crew member died. The NTSB investigation found the vessel was not equipped with enough smoke detectors and that, of the five surviving crew members, some had never participated in a fire drill.

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More recently, Muise was named the NTSB’s investigator-in-charge of its portion of the probe into the Titan, the privately-owned submarine where all five people aboard died in 2023 during a voyage to the wreck of the Titanic. The Coast Guard is leading that investigation.

Outside of work, Muise is a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Stafford County, Virginia.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the Deepwater Horizon explosion is one of the largest oil spills in history.

Lee O. Sanderlin is an Enterprise Reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Before joining The Banner, he worked at The Baltimore Sun as a reporter covering a wide array of topics, including stories about abusive politicians, sexual abuse, gun violence and legislative issues.

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