The sole survivor of the Baltimore bridge disaster has told how he watched friends and relatives fall from the structure and die as he fought for his own life.

“I relive it all the time, the minutes before the fall and when I’m falling,” Julio Cervantes Suarez told NBC News in his first interview since the 100,000-ton cargo ship, the Dali, crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on 26 March.

Mr Cervantes Suarez, 37, was one of seven maintenance workers fixing potholes at the time of impact. The force threw the van he was in off the structure and into the the Patapsco river around 180ft (50m) below.

He said he prepared for death.

“I thanked God for the family he gave me. I asked him to take care of my wife and kids. And I asked for forgiveness,” he said in an interview in Spanish.

He struggled in vain to open the doors as water rose to his neck, then managed to force a window open – squeezing out just before the vehicle sank.

Unable to swim, he clung to a piece of wreckage and waited for rescue.

“That’s when I realised what happened. I looked at the bridge and it was no longer there,” he said.

Mr Cervantes Suarez said he saw co-workers – some of whom were family – as “the water covered them”.

“I started to call out to each by name,” he said. “But no one answered me.”

The first to fall was his nephew, Carlos Daniel Hernández, who was in a car when the Dali smashed into the bridge.

Mr Cervantes Suarez said he had told the 24-year-old, whom he considered a son, to take a break in the vehicle.

“If I had told him to come with me, maybe it would have been different,” he said. “Maybe he would be here with us.”

The other victims were:

  • José Mynor López, 37
  • Maynor Suazo Sandoval, 38
  • Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26
  • José Lopez, 35
  • Alejandro Hernández Fuentes, 35.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after the Dali lost power, veered off course and smashed into the structure.

Rescuers searched the waters for days to recover the bodies of all the victims.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

A lawyer for Mr Cervantes Saurez and other victims told NBC that he was considering legal action against the Dali’s Singapore-based owner, Grace Ocean.

Mr Cervantes Saurez said he wanted those responsible to “pay” for the damage, but said he knew that it would not bring back his loved ones and co-workers.

“I know that money is not going to buy a hug from a father or a son,” he said.

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