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There are people still aboard the ship that crashed into the Baltimore Bridge

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Crews of engineers, divers and other workers spent this past week trying to get a grip on the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Some of the twisted debris is still resting on the ship that rammed the bridge. There are still hundreds of tons of hazardous cargo on board the Dali and more than 20 of the ship's crew members. Several organizations have been trying to bring them aid and comfort. One of them is a Catholic ministry, Apostleship of the Sea. Andrew Middleton is their director, and he's joining us from Baltimore. Welcome to the program.

ANDREW MIDDLETON: Good morning.

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RASCOE: What can you tell us about this crew? How are they doing?

MIDDLETON: In my limited conversations with them, you know, I've just periodically throughout the days - have asked how they're doing. Is there - everyone OK? Do they need anything? And the response is they seem to be in a positive mindset and doing well.

RASCOE: Seafarers - I mean, they're accustomed to long voyages, but are they accustomed to a voyage this long and really being kind of stuck on the ship like this?

MIDDLETON: It was my understanding, in conversations with a couple of the crew members - they were going to take a route that would take them down around South Africa to avoid some of the Houthi attacks and violence off the Yemen coast. They were mentally prepared for 28 days, you know, the only difference now being - is they're within eyeshot of dry land, and they can't get to it.

RASCOE: Why can't these crew members come ashore for what they need? Why are they stuck on the ship?

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MIDDLETON: They were prepared for a 28-day voyage, so they have fresh food and fresh water, and you need to keep the crew on board to monitor mechanical systems, electrical systems, pumps. All those kind of things that make the vessel operate, you need humans to do that. So if they should end up being stranded for a period of time after that 28 days, the ship line will make arrangements to get food and fresh water out to them or, you know, anything else that they might need.

I think we worry that the stress and the trauma of the incident and - that, as time goes on, might start to weigh a little more heavily on them.

RASCOE: Yeah.

MIDDLETON: So, you know, hopefully, they'll be back into a berth sooner than later.

RASCOE: Are there any comfort items that you guys have tried to bring them just to make them, you know, feel better in a difficult situation?

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MIDDLETON: So because they travel all around the world, they typically use prepaid data SIM cards in their phones. So I was able to purchase enough SIM cards for the entire crew. And then a care package was put together with Wi-Fi hot spots and some snacks and other things, and we were able to get that out to them via a launch that's being run by one of the salvage companies that is on-site.

RASCOE: We don't think about seafarers or the people that are on these ships that bring us all the items and things that we may need to help our society keep going. What do you want the audience to know about these men and the work that they do?

MIDDLETON: Well, I mean, I think it's important for everyone to realize that these men and women go to sea to support families and - at home. And sometimes, they're from developing nations where jobs and income aren't what they would be in our country, and one way for them to make a really good living is to go to sea. The impact of that is that they sacrifice time with their families. They're honest, hardworking people, and they're trying just to make a living and support - you know, support their families like - just like we're doing.

RASCOE: That's Andrew Middleton with the Apostleship of the Sea in Baltimore. Thank you so much for joining us.

MIDDLETON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Saturday episodes of Up First. As host of the morning news magazine, she interviews news makers, entertainers, politicians and more about the stories that everyone is talking about or that everyone should be talking about.