Mon | Sep 24, 2018

At least six crushed to death in Florida bridge collapse

Published:Friday | March 16, 2018 | 10:34 AM
This photo provided by DroneBase shows the collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in the Miami area on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

MIAMI (AP) — Authorities said Friday that the cables suspending a pedestrian bridge were being tightened after a "stress test" when the 950-ton concrete span collapsed over traffic, killing at least six people only days after its installation was celebrated as a technological innovation.

As state and federal investigators worked to determine why the five-day-old span failed, Florida politicians pointed to the stress test and loosened cables as possible factors, and a police chief asked everyone not to jump to conclusions.

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"This is a tragedy that we don't want to re-occur anywhere in the United States," said Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade police.

"We just want to find out what caused this collapse to occur and people to die."

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A Florida International University student was among the fatalities, and several construction workers were among the 10 people injured.

One person died at a hospital, and Perez said five bodies were located with the help of cameras but not yet retrieved from vehicles crushed under the immense slab.

No identity has been released.

"We're not even going to talk numbers anymore because we expect to find other individuals down there," Perez said.

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Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said crews had conducted a "stress test" on the span earlier in the day, and Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the engineering firm involved had ordered the tightening of cables that had become loosened.

"They were being tightened when it collapsed," Rubio said on Twitter Thursday night.

Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined police in taking over command of the scene Friday from first responders, who had spent hours racing to find survivors in the rubble of the 175-foot span using high-tech listening devices, trained sniffing dogs and search cameras.

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IN PHOTO: This March 10, 2018 photo shows an early morning view of the main span of the a pedestrian bridge that is being positioned to connect the City of Sweetwater, to Florida International University near Miami.

The $14.2 million pedestrian bridge was supposed to open in 2019 as a safe way to cross six lanes of traffic between the FIU campus and the community of Sweetwater, where many students live.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said Thursday that investigators will get to the bottom of "why this happened and what happened," and if anyone did anything wrong, "we will hold them accountable."

Rubio, who is an adjunct professor at the school, noted the pedestrian bridge was intended to be an innovative and "one-of-a-kind engineering design."

When finished, the bridge would have been supported from above, with a tall, off-centre tower and cables attached to the walkway.

That tower had not yet been installed, and it was unclear what builders were using as temporary supports.

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