Fact Check: Photo Showing Black Figure On Bridge Does NOT Show Baltimore Bridge Shortly Before Collapse -- It's Old Picture, Different Bridge

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Photo Showing Black Figure On Bridge Does NOT Show Baltimore Bridge Shortly Before Collapse -- It's Old Picture, Different Bridge Pre-2024 Photo

Does a photo showing a black figure on a bridge depict a situation on the Francis Scott Key Bridge over Baltimore Harbor shortly before it collapsed on March 26, 2024? No, that's not true: The image is an old picture of a different bridge. The photo with the shadowy shape appeared online more than a decade before a container cargo ship crashed into the Baltimore bridge, bringing it down.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook by Rob Anderson on March 27, 2024. The post's caption said:

Someone shared this photo of a black figure on the bridge before it collapsed and I thought who knows photoshop mabye but then I saw a video made 3 weeks ago where a woman had visions of bridges collapsing in the near future🤯. The even crazier part is she mentioned a dark figure as well in the video I will share it below.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Mar 28 15:06:01 2024 UTC)

Although the March 27, 2024, Facebook post does not specifically claim the bridge in the picture is the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the post's reference to "the bridge" and its timing -- coming a day after the bridge collapse in the outer Baltimore Harbor -- leaves that clear impression.

But it's not the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Google search

A Google Lens search (archived here) turned up dozens of matches for the image, showing it has been circulating since at least 2008, long before the 2024 Baltimore bridge incident. Most of the photos are also associated with an urban legend known as "Mothman," which originated in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. A sampling of the search can be seen below:


(Source: Google screenshot taken on Thu Mar 28 16:21:53 2024 UTC)

In addition, a post (archived here) on Facebook by l'uomo falena - mothman on January 8, 2009, shows the same photo with a digital timestamp of 11/13/03, or November 13, 2003. The image from the post appears below:

mothman final.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Mar 28 16:39:19 2024 UTC)

Different bridge

Perhaps inspired by the Mothman legend (archived here), the bridge shown in the social media post is likely the Silver Memorial Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Gallipolis, Ohio, and Henderson, West Virginia; or the Point Pleasant-Henderson Bridge that connects neighboring Point Pleasant, West Virginia, with Henderson. The three communities are at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. The Point Pleasant-Henderson Bridge can be seen in the foreground of the picture below, which looks into Point Pleasant (archived here):


(Source: Google screenshot taken on Thu Mar 28 18:38:07 2024 UTC)

Here's an image (archived here) of the Silver Memorial Bridge, which was published on Flickr by Angela Scott Stewart on September 1, 2008:


(Source: Flickr screenshot taken on Thu Mar 28 16:39:19 2024 UTC)

Francis Scott Key Bridge vs. 2 other bridges

Finally, comparing the photos of the three bridges stacked together, the images show very different designs. Neither of the bridges around Point Pleasant (top and bottom), nor the one in the social media post with the black figure are a match for the Key Bridge (middle) in Baltimore before it was damaged:


(Source: Library of Congress, Maryland Transportation Authority and Flickr screenshots taken on Thu Mar 28 2024 UTC)

Read more

Other Lead Stories fact checks involving claims around the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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