'A generous man': Baltimore bridge worker helped family, community in Honduras

'A generous man': Baltimore bridge worker helped family, community in Honduras

Baltimore bridge worker Maynor Suazo Sandoval killed during collapse

Maynor Suazo Sandoval (right) and his mother visiting the Niagara Falls, in New York state.

Maynor Suazo Sandoval/Martin Suazo Sandoval

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Maynor Suazo Sandoval/Martin Suazo Sandoval

Maynor Suazo Sandoval (right) and his mother visiting the Niagara Falls, in New York state.

Maynor Suazo Sandoval/Martin Suazo Sandoval

Maynor Suazo Sandoval left rural Azacualpa, Honduras nearly 18 years ago with a vision of a better future for him and his family.

He settled in Maryland where he worked as a mason in construction, as a package courier, and more recently, as part of a construction crew on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed early Tuesday.

Suazo was driven to help his family and his community in Honduras, Martin Suazo Sandoval, his older brother, told NPR from Honduras on Wednesday.

“My brother was a generous man,” Martin Suazo Sandoval said in Spanish.

While working in the U.S., Maynor Suazo Sandoval sent money to start a hotel that provided jobs and supported his family. He also helped people from his town by paying for their medicines and doctor’s visits, as well as assisting people with disabilities.

Part of his motivation was also to help his hometown’s children. He sponsored a youth soccer league.

“He always said that if we were to have kids with a healthy mind, that later become prosperous teens, then we were bound to have a better country,” Martin Suazo Sandoval said.

Martin Suazo Sandoval, the brother of Honduran citizen Maynor Suazo Sandoval, speaks with the media Wednesday outside his home in Azacualpa, Honduras. Martin says his brother is missing and was part of a maintenance crew on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed Tuesday.

Claudio Escalón/AP

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Claudio Escalón/AP

Martin Suazo Sandoval, the brother of Honduran citizen Maynor Suazo Sandoval, speaks with the media Wednesday outside his home in Azacualpa, Honduras. Martin says his brother is missing and was part of a maintenance crew on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed Tuesday.

Claudio Escalón/AP

But Maynor Suazo Sandoval has been missing since the bridge accident Tuesday.

He was part of a construction crew fixing potholes at the bridge when it collapsed after being hit by a cargo ship. Eight workers went into the cold waters of the Patapsco River. Two were rescued that same day.

On Wednesday, authorities recovered the bodies of two other people, one from Mexico and one from Guatemala. Four other workers remain missing.

Authorities have not yet officially identified them, but Suazo was identified by family members, and Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, a national nonprofit that advocates for immigrants.

Suazo was a member of this organization.

“The bridge has a great historic significance,” Torres said, adding it was named after the author of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ “These immigrants were entrusted with maintaining and repairing it.”

Torres said the tragedy serves as an example of how immigrants often perform risky jobs that keep the country running.

“I really hope that people, the American people, the policy makers, understand and value the amazing contribution of the workers, the families, men and women, in this society,” Torres said.

In the U.S., about 1 in 4 construction workers are foreign born, according to the Census. The majority of them are Hispanic.

Their labor not only supports the U.S., but also supports the economies of countries abroad.

Money sent by workers in the U.S. represents one of the main income sources for countries like El Salvador and Honduras. Remittances, for instance, make up about 31% of Honduras’ gross domestic product.

Maynor Suazo was one of the people sending money back to his country. He had become a successful provider for his family and his larger binational community.

Since the accident, friends and loved ones went on social media praying and honoring his legacy. Photos of kids wearing brand new soccer uniforms, and shiny trophies provided by him adorn people’s Facebook pages.

One person wrote in Spanish, “Thank you brother for loving your hometown and your people.”

Martin Suazo Sandoval told NPR his family has been in contact with authorities. They’d like to bring Maynor Suazo Sandoval back to Azacualpa, the place where it all started.

His community awaits him.

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