Update on FIU Pedestrian Bridge Collapse

The FIU pedestrian bridge, which was under construction when it collapsed, was being built as a means for students to cross over a busy six-lane roadway.

Update on FIU Pedestrian Bridge Collapse

Six people were killed and ten were injured when the 950-ton pedestrian bridge collapsed onto cars waiting at a red light.

Details are emerging on the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed over a major roadway Thursday, killing six and injuring ten.

Two construction workers were on top of the 950-ton, 175-foot span bridge when it collapsed onto vehicles waiting at a red light, reports WCVB.

Vehicles could be seen pinned underneath the bridge and several people were being treated by paramedics in the median. Aerial footage also showed first responders using cranes and sniffing dogs to search through the rubble.

Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta confirmed responders moved from a rescue to a recovery operation on Friday.

The pedestrian bridge was being installed as a walkway from FIU’s main campus to the city of Sweetwater, where thousands of students live. It spanned across U.S. Highway 41, also known as the Tamiami Trail, and was scheduled to open to pedestrians in 2019. The main span of the bridge had just been installed on Saturday.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the cables that suspend the bridge had loosened and were being tightened at the time of the collapse.

Five bodies were recovered from the wreckage on Saturday and the sixth victim died at the hospital.

The victims have been identified as 18-year-old Alexa Duran, an FIU student; 37-year-old Navara Brown, an employee with Structural Technologies VSL; Brandon Brownfield, a husband and father of three young girls; 60-year-old Rolando Fraga Hernandez, a systems technician at ITH Communications; 57-year-old Osvaldo Gonzalez, a Cuban native and owner of a party rental business; and 54-year-old Alberto Arias, Gonzalez’s friend and business partner.

FIU student Richie Humble was a passenger in Duran’s vehicle when he heard a long creaking noise coming from the bridge.

“I looked up, and in an instant, the bridge was collapsing on us completely. It was too quick to do anything about it,” Humble said Friday in a phone interview.

Humble recalls calling out to Duran but got no response and couldn’t get to her. He was able to crawl into the back seat where a group of men used a wooden plank to pry open the rear door and pull him out, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

“Today is a dark day in our history,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg wrote in an email to the FIU community. “Just five days ago, we stood on 8th Street, united in celebration. Tonight we grieve for all the victims of the bridge collapse.”

The university was on spring break at the time of the collapse but reopened on Friday with grief counselors on hand.

Engineering Company Met Hours Before Collapse to Discuss Crack in Bridge

Hours before the pedestrian bridge collapsed, FIGG Bridge Group, the Miami-based contracting company responsible for the construction of the bridge, held a meeting to discuss a crack in the structure, according to the NY Times. Representatives from the university and the state Department of Transportation attended the two-hour meeting.

The company delivered a technical presentation on the crack and “concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” according to a statement released by the university on Saturday.

Jorge Mesa, a 31-year-old employee at FIU, says he was in his car near the bridge around the same time as the meeting when he heard “a cracking-whip kind of sound.” Mesa says he then looked to his right and saw one of the bridge workers on the street make a face as though the sound he had just heard was not normal.

“When he gave me that face, I got the chills all the way down my body,” he said.

Two days before the meeting, Denney Pate, the lead engineer on the project, left a voicemail for the Transportation Department regarding “some cracking that’s been observed on the north end” of the bridge. In his voicemail, Pate said the cracking did not present any safety issues.

The voicemail was left on a landline and wasn’t heard by a state DOT employee until Friday as the employee was out of the office on assignment.

Dick Kane, a spokesman for the DOT, says the voicemail was left for Alfredo Reyna, an employee whose role is to keep the project on schedule.

“While Reyna is a professional engineer, he does not have control over the project and relies on the expertise of the licensed engineer of record,” said Kane.

FIU Pedestrian Bridge Was “First of Its Kind”

On Tuesday last week, the university released a statement calling the bridge the “first of its kind” as engineers used Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) methods, according to NPR.

“The FIU-Sweetwater University City Bridge is the largest pedestrian bridge moved via Self-Propelled Modular Transportation in U.S. history,” said the release. “It is also the first in the world to be constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete. When exposed to sunlight, the titanium dioxide in the concrete captures pollutants and turns it bright white, reducing maintenance costs.”

Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and construction management at the University of California, Berkeley, says the decision to use the ABC method was risky.

“Innovations take a design firm into an area where they don’t have applicable experience, and then we have another unexpected failure on our hands,” he said.

The $14.2 million project was a collaboration between FIGG and MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor. FIGG has designed several well-known bridges, including the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston.

“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” FIGG wrote in a statement. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”

The ten injured victims are currently hospitalized at Kendall Regional Medical Center. Doctor Mark McKenney, head of trauma, says two of the patients remain in critical condition while the other eight are stable.

“One of the patients arrived in cardiac arrest. His heart was restarted, and he went to the operating room,” said McKenney. “Another patient arrived in a coma with severe extremity injuries.”

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About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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