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Baseless Conspiracy Theories Follow Key Bridge Collapse

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Quick Take

The Francis Scott Key Bridge near Baltimore collapsed after being hit by a cargo ship in the early morning on March 26. Although all evidence points to an accident, conspiracy theorists spread the baseless claim that it was intentionally caused by a “cyber-attack.” Officials have dismissed the claim.

Full Story

A cargo ship ran into the Francis Scott Key Bridge near Baltimore at about 1:30 a.m. on March 26, sending the center stretch of the 1.6-mile bridge into the Patapsco River and leaving six road repair workers presumed dead.

From the start, authorities have described the crash as an accident.

At the first press conference, held at about 6:30 a.m., Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said, “There is absolutely no indication that there is any terrorism or that this was done on purpose.” His department had been working with “the FBI and other federal and state agencies to get all the intel that we have, but there’s absolutely no indication that it was intentional,” he said.

Later in the day, William DelBagno, who leads the FBI’s Baltimore field office, said the same thing: “There is no specific or credible information to suggest that there are ties to terrorism in this incident.”

That office also released a similar statement the same day.

And President Joe Biden, who made remarks from the White House in the afternoon, said, “Everything so far indicates that this was a terrible accident. At this time we have no other indication, no other reason to believe there was any intentional act here.”

In an aerial view, the cargo ship Dali is seen after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images.

Despite the lack of evidence and the clear statements from officials, conspiracy-laden claims have been racking up millions of views on social media.

For example, Alex Jones — the conspiracy theorist behind InfoWars who is perhaps best known for denying that the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, actually happened — wrote on X, “Looks deliberate to me. A cyber-attack is probable. WW3 has already started…”

He cited nothing for support other than a post from social media influencer Andrew Tate, who also has a history of spreading misinformation. Tate had claimed, “This ship was cyber-attacked. Lights go off and it deliberately steers towards the bridge supports. Foreign agents of the USA attack digital infrastructures. Nothing is safe. Black Swan event imminent.”

The idea of a “black swan” event came from mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who described the theory in a 2007 book as an improbable event that has a large impact and is later explained as being less random than it actually was. However, the term has recently been adopted by conspiracy theorists and has appeared in many of the posts suggesting that the bridge collapse was intentional.

As we said, though, there’s no evidence that the crash was anything other than accidental.

Here’s what we know so far:

A cargo ship named the Dali, which was registered in Singapore, departed the Port of Baltimore shortly before 1 a.m. It was at about half of its capacity, carrying almost 5,000 shipping containers, according to the Synergy Group, which was operating the vessel.

The ship traveled about 4 nautical miles, which is approximately 4.5 miles, and reached speeds of about 8 knots, which is a little over 9 miles per hour, according to location data compiled by myshiptracking.com.

The ship hit a pylon supporting the bridge at about 1:30 a.m., Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at an afternoon press conference.

Before hitting the bridge, the ship’s crew “notified authorities of a power issue,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore had explained at a press conference earlier in the day. He confirmed that the ship had lost power.

Between the time of that mayday call and the collapse of the bridge, officials were able to stop traffic going onto the bridge, Moore said.

There was also a crew of eight workers on the bridge filling potholes — two of them were rescued and six are presumed dead. In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on March 27, Moore said that first responders had “started to send out notifications” to the workers, and the Baltimore Banner reported on radio communications between officers in the moments before the crash that indicated there was less than a minute between when officers began their communication about the workers and the crash.

The six workers who are presumed dead were immigrants who had come from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras.

Not much information on the crash is available at this point, Homendy said, since the NTSB had been “standing back” in order to allow the search-and-rescue operation to continue for possible survivors. That rescue operation ended at about 7:30 p.m. on March 26, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said at an evening press conference.

So, according to the early assessment of all authorities who have publicly spoken, this was an accident. There has been no evidence so far to indicate it was an intentional crash, or that it was caused by a “cyber-attack.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore (@WBALTV11). “LIVE: KEY BRIDGE COLLAPSE.” YouTube. 26 Mar 2024.

The Telegraph (@telegraph). “In full: Baltimore bridge collapse is ‘mass casualty event’ – watch press conference.” YouTube. 26 Mar 2024.

Gov. Wes Moore (@GovWesMoore). “Governor Wes Moore Press Conference on the Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.” YouTube. 26 Mar 2024.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Press release. “FBI Baltimore Statement on Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse.” 26 Mar 2024.

The White House (@WhiteHouse). “President Biden Delivers Remarks on the Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.” YouTube. 26 Mar 2024.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. Press release. “MPA will support the US Coast Guard in its investigations.” 26 Mar 2024.

Synergy Marine Group. Press release. “‘DALI’, Francis Scott Key Bridge Incident.” 26 Mar 2024.

Maersk. Press release. “Cargo to and from Port of Baltimore: TA2, TA5, TP12, Amex, AGAS.” 26 Mar 2024.

NTSBgov (@NTSBgov). “NTSB Media Briefing – Francis Scott Key Bridge struck by Cargo Ship Dali.” YouTube. 26 Mar 2024.

Willis, Adam and Lee O. Sanderlin. “Did state’s warning make it to construction crew on Key Bridge?” Baltimore Banner. 27 Mar 2024.