CHARELSTON, W.Va. — Joe Stevens is a spokesman for the city of Nitro in Kanawha County. However, he’s also a native of Baltimore, Maryland and still has family there. Like most, he was horrified when he awoke Tuesday to the news that the Francis Scott Key Bridge had collapsed into the water in the wee hours of Tuesday.

“My brother still lives in Dundalk and is five minutes from the bridge and can actually see it from his back door. When he got up this morning, an iconic image on the Patapsco River was in the water,” Stevens said speaking on 580-Live with Dave Allen on WCHS Radio.

Investigators continued to probe the crash which happened around 1:30 a.m. when a ship loaded with cargo containers struck one the bridge piers and caused the entire span to instantly collapse. The search goes on for several who are still missing.

“My dad was a tug boat captain in the Baltimore Harbor for 39 years. I have travelled with him on the tug boat under that bridge on numerous occasions,” Stevens said.

St. Albans Fire Chief Lance Carney was moved by the video of the bridge plunging into the water in Baltimore Tuesday morning. Carney knew exactly what his counterparts in the Baltimore area were facing and it wasn’t something he envied.

“Whenever you’re getting into depths 20 to 30 feet everything you’re doing is by feel and touch. It’s an incredibly difficult task to not only locate people, but if the victims are still in cars, you then have to go in and free them from the wreckage,” he explained.

The bridge in Baltimore collapsed after one of its piers was struck by a ship. The scenario was scary for Carney because it’s not out of the realm of possibility on any navigable river here in West Virginia.

“Very high potential of it happening here,” he explained. “We have had incidents especially during high water events where barges and boats tied up break loose and float downstream uncontrolled and slam into bridge piers. So, it’s a possibility,” he explained.

He said the conditions are dramatic with visibility in the water almost zero after you’re below two to three feet. The debris in the water increases the level of difficulty and in many cases it’s like feeling for a needle in a haystack.

Carney said they don’t specifically train for the scenario, but they have discussed it. He felt like first responders in West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley would be well prepared for such a disaster since they often recover victims who are still strapped into vehicles which have gone into the Kanawha River during the summer months.

“We’ve discussed it with the hopes of it never happening,” said Carney.

The Baltimore bridge took five years to build and was completed in 1977. It was built to allow for the transport of hazardous materials in the area because those could not be safely hauled through a tunnel under the harbor.

The harbor is closed for the time being and it may be a while before it reopened to shipping traffic.