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Central American and Mexican families mourn the Baltimore bridge collapse missing workers

Central American and Mexican families mourn the Baltimore bridge collapse missing workers
1 month 4 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, March 27 2024 Mar 27, 2024 March 27, 2024 2:44 PM March 27, 2024 in News - Mexico
Source: APnews.com
In this image taken from video released by the National Transportation and Safety Board, the cargo ship Dali is stuck under part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after the ship hit the bridge, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Baltimore. (NTSB via AP)

AZACUALPA, Honduras (AP) — The construction workers who went missing in the Baltimore bridge collapse all hailed from Mexico or Central America before they settled in the Maryland area.

Police managed to close bridge traffic seconds before a cargo ship slammed into one of the Francis Scott Key Bridge's supports early Tuesday, causing the span to fall into the frigid Patapsco River. There wasn't time for a maintenance crew filling potholes on the span to get to safety.

At least eight people fell into the water and two were rescued. The other six are missing and presumed dead, but the search continued Wednesday.

The governments of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras confirmed that their citizens were among the missing.

Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 38, was the youngest of eight siblings from Azacualpa, a rural mountainous area in northwestern Honduras along the border with Guatemala.

Eighteen years ago, he set out on his own for the U.S. looking for opportunities. He had worked as an industrial technician in Honduras, repairing equipment in the large assembly plants, but the pay was too low to get ahead, one of his brothers, Martín Suazo Sandoval, said Wednesday while standing in the dirt street in front of the family's small hotel in Honduras.

"He always dreamed of having his own business," he said.

Maynor entered the United States illegally and settled in Maryland. At first, he did any work he could find, including construction and clearing brush. Eventually, he started a package delivery business in the Baltimore-Washington area, his brother said.

Other siblings and relatives followed him north.

"He was the fundamental pillar, the bastion so that other members of the family could also travel there and later get visas and everything," Martín Suazo Sandoval said. "He was really the driving force so that most of the family could travel."

Maynor has a wife and two children ages 17 and 5, his brother said.

The pandemic forced Maynor to find other work, and he joined Brawner Builders, the company that was performing maintenance on the bridge when it collapsed.

His brother said Maynor never talked about being scared of the work, despite the heights he worked at on the bridges. "He always told us that you had to triple your effort to get ahead," Martín Suazo Sandoval said. "He said it didn't matter what time or where the job was, you had to be where the work was."

Things had been going well for him until the collapse. He was moving through the steps to get legal residency and planned to return to Honduras this year to complete the process, his brother said.

Even though Maynor had not been able to return to Honduras, he had financially supported various nongovernmental social organizations in town, as well as the youth soccer league, his brother said. The area depends largely upon agriculture — coffee, cattle, sugarcane — he said.

Maynor's employer broke the news of his disappearance to his family, leaving them devastated, especially his mother, who still lives in Azacualpa, Martín Suazo Sandoval said.

"These are difficult moments, and the only thing we can do is keep the faith," he said, noting that his younger brother knew how to swim and could have ended up anywhere. If the worst outcome is confirmed, he said the family would work to return his body to Honduras.

In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said three Mexicans were on the bridge when it fell, including one who was injured but rescued and two who were still missing. He said he wouldn't share their names for the families' privacy.

The tragedy illustrated the contributions that migrants make to the U.S. economy, López Obrador said.

"This demonstrates that migrants go out and do risky jobs at midnight. And for this reason, they do not deserve to be treated as they are by certain insensitive, irresponsible politicians in the United States," he said.

Guatemala's Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens were among the missing. And El Salvador's foreign minister, Alexandra Hill Tinoco, posted Wednesday on X that one Salvadoran citizen, Miguel Luna, was among the missing workers.

Federal and state investigators have said the crash appears to have been an accident.

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This story was updated to correct Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval's age. He was 38 years old, not 39.

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Associated Press reporters Sonia Pérez D. in Guatemala City, Marcos Aléman in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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