Officials used controlled explosives to remove parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sitting atop of the Dali cargo ship Monday. As the explosives went off, a big boom could be heard through earphones. A plume of black smoke floated into the sky seconds after the eruption.

The operation was meant to free the Dali from underneath the wreckage of the bridge, which collapsed after the ship crashed into it on March 26, killing six construction workers who had been fixing potholes.

The Dali is now expected to soon be able to head back to sea and finish its course to the Seagirt Terminal in the coming days.

Unified Command postponed the controlled explosion Saturday and Sunday because of weather conditions. Precision cuts were made to the designated section of the bridge that is estimated to weigh about 12 million pounds and is about 500 feet long.

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Black pieces of tape are seen here on a large part of the collapsed Key Bridge. Those black pieces of tape mark where the cuts were made into the steel in order to guarantee that it collapses once the explosives go off.
Black pieces of tape are seen here on a large part of the collapsed Key Bridge. Those black pieces of tape mark where the cuts were made into the steel in order to guarantee that it collapses once the explosives go off. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Access within 2,000 yards of the bridge was cut off during the explosion for safety reasons. The mission went off as planned, clearing the way for salvage crews to continue their work.

Baltimore District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Col. Estee Pinchasin said crews will further survey the area around the ship and continue to clear the debris.

They are closer to opening a 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel that will allow for normal operations at the Port of Baltimore. Crews removed a significant amount of steel that was sitting on top of the Dali, but may need to remove more. It’s imperative that the channel’s bottom is cleared for deep ships that pass through the port, that usually only have about a foot or a foot-and-a-half of clearance, Pinchasin said.

”No steel left behind’ is kind of our motto that we came up with,” she said.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore visited the site hours before the explosives were set off to discuss updates. He said the state will begin winding down relief programs supporting businesses and workers impacted by the bridge collapse, adding that the state will cease to accept applications after May 18.

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After almost two long months, the Dali is freed from the collapsed steel of the Key Bridge. The plan is to float the Dali back to the Seagirt Terminal and continue clean up of the rest of the debris. Nothing will be left behind.
After almost two long months, the Dali is freed from the collapsed steel of the Key Bridge. The plan is to float the Dali back to the Seagirt Terminal and continue clean up of the rest of the debris. Nothing will be left behind. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
The large part of the collapsed Key Bridge was toppled with explosions on May 13, 2024. Removing this large part allows for the Dali to be freed from the wreckage. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Standing alongside federal, state and local lawmakers, he said that the Port of Baltimore expects 30 public and private vessels to arrive next week

The Dali crash disrupted marine traffic through the Port of Baltimore and launched two federal safety investigations as well as an FBI probe.

Salvage crews have worked for weeks to carefully remove wreckage from the crash and reopen some shipping channels to the port Port. Moore warned that anyone piloting a drone over the Key Bridge site is jeopardizing the safety of the workers.

“Do not test us on this,” Moore said.

Officials were scheduled to clear the section of the Key Bridge using explosives on Sunday but canceled the operation due to safety concerns after lightning was spotted in the area.

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With the controlled explosion completed Monday, the multiagency effort continues to make headway on normalizing operations at the Baltimore Port.

The Department of Transportation Port Administration also announced Monday in a social media post that the first roll-on/roll-off ship had arrived at the terminal since the bridge collapse.

“Baltimore is back!,” the post read as the ships arrived at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Moore said his administration is turning now to secure federal funding to rebuild the Key Bridge, which he called a “critical artery” for the region. “It’s not about nostalgia,” Moore said “It’s about necessity.”

The state executive’s team has met in recent weeks with more than 100 members of Congress to build support. He was joined Monday in Dundalk by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore native, as well as U.S Sen. Ben Cardin, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

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