At least six people are dead after a brand-new pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed Thursday, crushing construction workers and vehicles traveling on the eight-lane road beneath the five-day-old structure.
Authorities said five died at the scene, and one more at a hospital. But they said there still could be additional vehicles crushed under the fallen bridge that will be found. Some estimates said up to 10 people were crushed to death. Another nine were injured.
Miami Herald reporter Monique O. Madan tweeted: “Law enforcement sources are telling me an infant was pulled from under the #FIUbridge. Whether the baby survived is unknown.”
An unnamed official told CBS-4 around midday Thursday: “At this point, we can’t even tell how many cars are under there. We won’t have a count on bodies for a while. It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
The vehicles had been stopped at a red light when the bridge came crashing down, the news station reported. Construction workers were reportedly on the bridge when it fell.
Meanwhile, the construction companies that built the bridge have been accused of unsafe practices and “shoddy work,” the Miami New Times reported.
Witness Aura Martinez told CBS-4: “It was such a scary feeling because I saw [the collapse] and I didn’t know what to do. It just literally killed people, and so we ran out there and tried to help people we saw. One girl, her car, it was literally a miracle of God because her car was just squished at the back. … It was very traumatizing.”
Rescuers are listening closely for the sounds of any survivors calling for help. Cranes are lifting chunks of concrete to locate bodies underneath the rubble. Rescue crews have been cutting through cars with chainsaws.
Madan tweeted, “Construction workers are telling me it’s an ‘engineering failure.'”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump is aware of the situation and will provide needed government resources.
The $14.2 million bridge, which weighed 950 tons and is located at 109th Ave and 8th Street, was unveiled March 10.
At the ceremony, Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg declared: “FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully.”
The university had hailed the project on Twitter as the “first-of-its-kind pedestrian bridge.”
First-of-its-kind pedestrian bridge “swings” into place. “FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” -President Mark B. Rosenberg. https://t.co/x8gPM9A4DG #worldsahead pic.twitter.com/mPEMeh2zmw
— FIU (@FIU) March 10, 2018
FIU ran a story on March 10 detailing the new construction method used to build the bridge. It’s called Accelerated Bridge Construction, or ABC.
“This method of construction reduces potential risks to workers, commuters and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions,” FIU’s Jennifer Lacayo reported.
The main span of the bridge was erected in just a few hours last weekend. It was installed by Munilla Construction Management and designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers.
“The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge is the largest pedestrian bridge moved via Self-Propelled Modular Transportation in U.S. history,” the FIU story states. “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.”
A lawsuit filed earlier this month accused Munilla Construction Management of constructing a “makeshift bridge” at an airport, which reportedly came apart and seriously injured an airport worker on Oct. 20, 2016.
And the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry ordered FIGG to pay $28,000 for building code violations after the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge collapsed and its 90 tons of debris landed on a railroad track.
After the collapse Thursday, FIU issued the following statement: “We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time we are still involved in the rescue efforts and gathering information. We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene. We will share updates as we have them.”
Construction of the bridge began in 2017 and was expected to be entirely finished in early 2019.
On Thursday afternoon, Munilla Construction tweeted: “Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. The new UniversityCity Bridge, which was under construction, experienced a catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life. MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on the scene in every way.”
FIGG Bridge Engineers said it’s shocked by the “tragic collapse” and will cooperate with the authorities as they investigate.
“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” the company told NBC News. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a large team to investigate.