Crews frantically seek survivors after collapse of bridge kills 4
A pedestrian bridge that was under construction collapsed onto a busy Miami highway Thursday afternoon, crushing vehicles beneath massive slabs of concrete and steel and killing at least four people, authorities said.
Search-and-rescue crews worked into the night, using dogs, search cameras and sensitive listening devices in a frantic search to find survivors among the debris.
“Everybody is working hard to make sure we rescue anyone who can be rescued,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
But Miami-Dade police director Juan Perez said hopes were dwindling as the hours passed. “We know that there’s going to be a negative outcome at the end of the day,” he said.
Four people were found dead amid the chaotic scene, and nine victims were taken “early on” to hospitals, Fire Chief Dave Downey said without elaborating on their conditions.
The partially built 950-ton bridge had been assembled by the side of the highway and moved into place Saturday to great fanfare. The span stretched almost 200 feet to connect Florida International University with the city of Sweetwater. It was expected to open to foot traffic next year.
Scott said an exhaustive investigation will uncover “why this happened and what happened,” and he vowed to hold accountable those responsible.
National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt III said a team of specialists was heading to Miami on Thursday night to investigate.
An accelerated construction method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption, the university said.
Renderings of the finished bridge showed a tall, off-center tower with cables attached to the walkway to support it. When the bridge collapsed, the main tower had not yet been installed, and it was unclear what the builders were using as temporary supports.
Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and construction management at the University of California, Berkeley, said it’s too early to know exactly what happened, but the decision to use what the bridge builders called an “innovative installation” was risky, especially because the bridge spanned a heavily traveled thoroughfare.
The main companies behind the $14.2 million construction project have faced questions about their past work, and one was fined in 2012 when a 90-ton section of a bridge collapsed in Virginia.
Munilla Construction Management, or MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, had a news release on its website touting the project with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a Tallahassee firm. After the collapse, it said the site had become temporarily unavailable due to increased web traffic. It has since been restored.
FIGG said in a statement, “In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before.”
But FIGG was fined in 2012 after a 90-ton section of a bridge it was building in Virginia crashed onto railroad tracks below, causing minor injuries to several workers. The citation from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry said FIGG did not properly inspect a girder and had not obtained written consent from its manufacturer before modifying it, according to a story in The Virginian-Pilot.
Court documents show that MCM was accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit said a worker at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where the company is working on an expansion, was injured when a makeshift MCM-built bridge collapsed under his weight.
The suit accused the company of employing “incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled or careless employees” at the job site.
A review of Occupational Safety Health Administration records shows that MCM has been fined for 11 safety violations in the past five years.