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Central American and Mexican families mourn missing bridge workers

The construction workers missing in the Baltimore Bridge collapse all came from Mexico or Central America before settling in the Maryland area.

Police managed to stop bridge traffic seconds before a cargo ship crashed into one of the supports of the Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday, sending it plunging into the frigid Patapsco River. There was no time for a maintenance crew to fill 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 region in northwest Honduras on the border with Guatemala.

Eighteen years ago he set out on his own to the USA to look for opportunities there. He had worked as an industrial technician in Honduras, repairing equipment at the large assembly plants, but the pay was too low to advance, one of his brothers, Martín Suazo Sandoval, said Wednesday as he stood on the dirt road in front of the family’s small home Hotel in Honduras.

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

The U.S. flag flies from the stern of a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat as it sails past the wreckage of the Dali cargo ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, March 27, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland.

The U.S. flag flies from the stern of a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat as it sails past the wreckage of the Dali cargo ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, March 27, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Maynor entered the United States illegally and settled in Maryland. At first he did whatever work he could find, including construction work and brush removal. He eventually opened a package delivery business in the Baltimore-Washington area, his brother said.

Other siblings and relatives followed him north.

“He was the cornerstone, the bastion, so that other family members could also travel there and later get visas and everything,” said Martín Suazo Sandoval. “He was really the driving force behind allowing most of the family to 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 afraid of the work, despite the heights at which he worked on the bridges. “He always told us that you have to triple your efforts to get ahead,” said Martín Suazo Sandoval. “He said it doesn’t matter when or where the job is, you have to be where the work is.”

Things were going well for him until he collapsed. His brother said he is currently going through the steps to obtain legal residency and plans to return to Honduras this year to complete the process.

Although Maynor was unable to return to Honduras, he financially supported various nongovernmental social organizations in the city as well as the youth soccer league, his brother said. The area depends largely on agriculture – coffee, livestock, sugar cane – 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, said Martín Suazo Sandoval.

“These are difficult moments and the only thing we can do is keep the faith,” he said, noting that his younger brother could swim and could have landed anywhere. If the worst outcome is confirmed, the family will work to return his body to Honduras, he said.

In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said three Mexicans were on the bridge when it collapsed – one who was injured but rescued and two who were still missing. He said he would not release their names for privacy reasons.

The tragedy highlights the contribution that migrants make to the US economy, said Lopez Obrador.

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

Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens were among the missing.

El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco posted on X on Wednesday that a Salvadoran citizen, Miguel Luna, was among the missing workers.

According to federal and state investigators, the crash appears to have been an accident.

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