Crimea explosion footage misrepresented as Baltimore incident

Social media users are claiming a video shows a fiery explosion on the bridge that collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland after a heavily laden cargo ship lost power and smashed into a support column. But the clip is misrepresented; the surveillance footage captured a massive blast at the Kerch bridge connecting Russia with the annexed Crimea peninsula in October 2022.

"Alternate angle on Francis Scott Key bridge shows a large explosion," say several March 26, 2024 posts on X, formerly Twitter.

The posts -- and numerous others like them -- show footage of a fireball erupting on a two-way bridge as vehicles drive across, causing flares and clouds of smoke to fog out the screen.

<span>Screenshot from X taken March 26, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken March 26, 2024

The clip pinballed across X, where the spread of disinformation has accelerated since Elon Musk's takeover in 2022, in the hours after a container ship rammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, blocking one of the busiest US commercial harbors.

Authorities said the vessel lost power and plowed into the structure after issuing a Mayday call and dropping anchors in a last-ditch effort to avoid disaster.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said in a press conference that there was no indication terrorism was to blame, echoing similar statements from the FBI and Baltimore police.

But those assurances did not stop a deluge of false claims from sprouting up online, as conspiracy theorists baselessly blamed the collision on everything from a cyberattack to Israel to corporate diversity initiatives.

Similarly, the video circulating alongside claims of "a large explosion" is unrelated to the Baltimore incident.

A reverse image search revealed CNN, The Guardian and other media published the footage in reports about an October 8, 2022 explosion on the Kerch bridge, Russia's sole land link with Crimea (archived here, here and here).

Russia said a truck bomb explosion ignited the fire and blamed Ukraine, which it had invaded months earlier. Ukraine's domestic intelligence agency later claimed responsibility for the operation.

Footage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsing appears to show the Singapore-flagged Dali container ship, controlled by two Baltimore port pilots at the time, going dark twice in the moments before the collision (archived here).

It does not show any explosion on the bridge, which officials scrambled to stop vehicles from crossing after the crew's Mayday call.

AFP has reported on other misinformation about the bridge collapse here.