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Pete Buttigieg slams conspiracy theories about Baltimore bridge collapse

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it “upsetting” that in the face of tragedy – the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridgeconspiracy theories have circulated to explain what caused the disaster that left six people to be presumed dead.

Disaster struck when the Dali container ship lost power and rammed into the Key bridge just before 1.30am on Tuesday, 26 March. The collision caused the bridge to collapse, sending construction workers flying into the Patapsco River below.

Days later, the cause of the tragic collision is still being investigated. As numerous agencies are trying to put together the pieces of what led to the crash, conspiracy theories have cropped up.

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pointed out there have been “wild conspiracy theories” about what caused the disaster, ranging from a cyberattack, the captain having side effects from a Covid-19 vaccine, and blaming the Obamas.

She asked Mr Buttigieg whether he thought he would have to combat these conspiracy theories in the midst of a crisis?

“We’re in the business of dealing with roads and bridges and sometimes ships and trains,” he said. “So we are not in the habit as a Department of Transportation, of being in the business of dealing with conspiracies, or conspiracy theories or that kind of wild thinking. But unfortunately, it is a fact of life in America today.

“What’s really upsetting is when misinformation or disinformation circulates, that is not without victims.

“This is a human tragedy,” Mr Buttigieg said, adding that six men lost their lives.

While two workers were rescued from the immediate aftermath, six others went missing. They were all presumed dead after 17 hours of searching.

Two bodies were pulled from a submerged pickup truck the following morning, while four others have still not been found.

His department needs “good, factual information” into how that happened to make effective future decisions, like bridge design and shipping policies.

All of that requires “being grounded in fact,” he said.

He also praised the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) efforts.

The NTSB is “ignoring” the “speculation, rumour and misinformation” to ensure we have a “completely factual base of information” to investigate what happened and to guide future decisions, the transportation secretary said.

The NTSB recovered the ship’s black box, providing a detailed timeline into the moments leading up to the crash.

Officials announced on Thursday evening that they were suspending the recovery operation. The debris clearing process was set to begin on Friday morning.

Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, announced that the federal government had approved an emergency relief fund: “This morning, we submitted an initial $60m request to the Biden-Harris administration for initial mobilisation, operations and debris recovery efforts.

“I can report that, as of this afternoon, the Biden-Harris administration has approved that request.”

He added that the entire process is expected to be long: “This work will not take hours. This work will not take days. This work will not just take weeks. We have a very long road ahead of us. We understand that. And we’re prepared.”