Footbridge collapses over main Miami road, kills six

By Viktoria Ristanovic
Staff Writer

A pedestrian bridge near downtown Miami collapsed on March 15, killing six people and injuring at least 10, according to CNN.

Rescue workers search for victims among the wreckage. (AP Photo)

After days of picking through the rubble, the search came to an end on Saturday after the remains of all six victims were recovered, according to CNN. Amongst those pulled out from the 950 tons of steel and concrete were 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran and father-of-three Brandon Brownfield.

The bridge had been moved into place over Miami’s Southwest Eighth Street with motorized lifts on March 10, and was not yet completed or opened. It collapsed five days later, crushing numerous cars below, according to the Miami Herald.

The bridge was intended to protect pedestrians from traffic on the busy Miami road. In August 2017, an FIU student was fatally struck by a vehicle on the same street. The bridge was scheduled to be open for pedestrian use next year, according to CNN.

FIU President Mark Rosenberg honored the victims of the collapse.

“Even as we grieve, we all have an interest in getting to the bottom of what happened,” Rosenberg said, according to CNN. “It will take time for our community to heal.”

FIU held a moment of silence on March 19 at 1:47 p.m., the time of the collapse.

The bridge’s design was a recipe for disaster, according to the Miami Herald. The bridge only had a single row of trusses running through its center for support, while similar truss bridges usually have two sets of vertical pylons to increase stability. Preliminary evidence suggests that the failure of a diagonal support truss at one end of the bridge contributed to its entire collapse.

Two days before the tragedy, Denney Pate, a lead engineer from the company presiding over the bridge, placed a call to the Florida Department of Transportation to warn that he observed “some cracking in the north end of the pylon span,” according to The Washington Post.

“Obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that.” Pate said, according to The Washington Post.

The message was not received until after the collapse because the Department of Transportation official was out of office on assignment, according to The Washington Post.

The family of Ronaldo Fraga, a truck driver who was killed in the collapse, filed a lawsuit against FIGG Bridge Engineers as well as Munilla Construction Management, the contractor for the bridge, according to NBC.

“Post-tensioning operations should not be done without first providing for public safety by precluding any active movement under the structure,” the suit stated, according to NBC.

FIGG Bridge Engineers released a statement one day after the collapse.

“[We are] carefully examining the steps that our team has taken in the interest of our overarching concern for public safety,” the statement read, according to The Washington Post. “The evaluation was based on the best available information at the time.”

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