Florida school was aware of bridge crack before fatal collapse

Glen Norman
March 19, 2018

Five bodies were extricated from the wreckage of a collapsed pedestrian bridge near Miami on Saturday.

Six people died, including five whose bodies were recovered on Saturday as workers pulled out vehicles from the rubble, officials said.

The first two vehicles extracted Saturday were flattened and had a total of three bodies inside. There are now six known deaths and an unknown number of victims still in crushed cars. "We are pretty confident that no one is left".

Police confirmed that they are reviewing reports that construction workers said they heard a loud cracking sound come from the structure around 8 a.m. Thursday, nearly six hours before the collapse.

"I believe that is the final count", said Miami-Dade Police Department Director Juan Perez. "This meeting lasted approximately two hours and included FIU and FDOT representatives".

The bridge crashed onto the road at 1:47 p.m.

He said "Our hearts break for the victims of the bridge collapse", and said the university is working with the National Transportation Safety Board and others to get to the bottom of what happened.

Investigators are still trying to determine why the bridge failed.

A Florida university plans to hold a moment of silence Monday for the people who died when a pedestrian bridge collapsed on a busy Miami highway. The cables supporting the span were being tightened following a "stress test" when it collapsed, authorities said. "They were internal to that diagonal member".

"A crack in a bridge does not necessarily mean that it's unsafe", the NTSB's Robert Accetta told reporters Friday.

"Bridges are really very vulnerable when they are under construction, when there are just pieces", he said.

FIU revealed in a statement early Saturday that the design build team of FIGG and MCM Construction held a meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, hours before the collapse, to discuss the crack in the structure.

"Any bridge with concrete, that's made of concrete, there's always cracks", said Verrastro, who has been an engineer for 42 years. The state official was out of the office on assignment and did not hear the message until Friday, after the collapse, the department said.

Professor Amjad Aref, a researcher at the University at Buffalo's department of civil, structural and environmental engineering, said it is unclear what the builders at FIU were using in lieu of a tower to support the segment that collapsed.

An FDOT spokesman referred safety questions to FIU on Friday, saying it was the university's project. "This project accomplishes our mission beautifully", FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg boasted that day.

"We've taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done", Pate said. Authorities are investigating whether cracking that was reported just before the span fell contributed to the accident. Three hours later, the bridge fell.

"It's going to be a long process" to remove the remaining vehicles, Perez said, "because (of) the ... weight and size of the structure that is laying on top of these vehicles".

The victims found on Saturday were identified as Rolando Fraga Hernandez, Oswald Gonzalez and Alberto Arias, the Miami-Dade Police Department said in a statement. Navarro Brown was pulled from the rubble Thursday and later died at the hospital.

Relatives also have confirmed the death of Alexa Duran, 18, according to media accounts.

Maurice Kemp, deputy mayor of Miami-Dade County, said the primary goal was to remove all victims and cars in a "dignified and respectful manner".

"My little girl was trapped in the vehicle and couldn't get out", Orlando Duran said.

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