LIVE BLOG: At least four dead in pedestrian bridge collapse at university in Miami, authorities say

(CNN) — At least four people died Thursday when a pedestrian bridge collapsed near Florida International University, Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey said.

At least eight cars were crushed under the bridge and at least nine people were transported to hospitals for treatment, authorities said.

“The most important thing we can do right now is pray for the individuals who ended up in the hospital, for their full recovery, and pray for the family members who lost loved ones,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday night.

Scott said the state would do its best to determine if any wrongdoing led to the collapse and, if so, that people would be held accountable.

The bridge’s span was just installed Saturday, an effort to boost safety on a busy street where an FIU student was fatally struck by a vehicle last year.

It is unclear why the bridge, which was still under construction, collapsed onto a busy state highway.

Latest developments

• Downey said the four deceased victims were located but have not been identified.

• Florida International University president Mark Rosenberg said the university followed all the processes required during the building of the bridge, and all contractors are certified by the state.

• Searchers are still looking for victims, although officials don’t know if anyone is trapped alive in the rubble.

• Dr. Mark G. McKenney, trauma medical director at Kendall Regional Medical Center, said his staff received 10 patients, including two who are in critical condition. One patient with severe extremity injuries arrived in a coma, McKenney said.

Victims were trapped in cars beneath the rubble

“We heard a loud bang behind us … and we looked back and the bridge had completely collapsed,” said Isabella Carrasco, a student at the University of Miami, who had just passed underneath the bridge in a car. Doctors and medical students ran to the scene from a nearby building and started giving medical attention to victims, she said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was briefed on the incident by Perez, according to a schedule released by his office. He will be on the school’s campus this evening to speak with local law enforcement and university officials, his office said.

Carrasco said she saw at least five or six cars completely crushed beneath the bridge.

“Someone on the side of the road had asked a police officer if she had heard any response from the people inside the car,” Carrasco said, “and she shook her head and said no.”

Ricardo Dejo, an FIU civil engineering student, told CNN he saw cars pinned beneath the bridge. “I can’t describe it,” Dejo said. “We were really excited about the bridge (before the crash). Everything looked fine. I went underneath it with my own car and it looked great.”

Bridge was still under construction

In a statement, the university said it was “shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge.”

“At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information,” the statement continued. “We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene.”

According to a fact sheet about the bridge on FIU’s website, it cost $14.2 million to build and was funded as part of a $19.4 million grant from the US Department of Transportation. It was designed to withstand the strength of a Category 5 hurricane, the fact sheet said, and was supposed to last for more than 100 years.

“Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy,” MCM, one of the companies that was contributing to the construction of the bridge, said in a statement. “The new University City Bridge, which was under construction, experienced a catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life.”

The statement added that MCM, which is based in Miami, would “conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way.”

Another company involved, FIGG Bridge Engineers, which designed the bridge, said in a statement that it was “stunned” by the collapse.

“Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident,” the FIGG statement said. “We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before.” FIGG is based in Tallahassee.

Bolton Perez and Associates, a third company involved in the construction of the bridge, is not commenting at this time.

BDI Engineering, a Colorado-based company, said it provided structural monitoring as the bridge span was put into place Saturday but added later that none of its personnel were at the scene on Thursday.

The company, which tweeted a video Saturday of the move and later took down the post, said it had “removed comments from our social media accounts out of respect for the individuals and families that have been affected by the collapse.”

Time-saving technology used to build the bridge

A statement from the university said that Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) technology was used in the construction of the pedestrian bridge.

ABC streamlines the building process so bridge construction projects can be completed quicker and be more cost-efficient. State Departments of Transportation use ABC technology to refurbish or construct bridges within 48 to 72 hours, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

By accelerating the time it takes to build the bridge, traffic delays and road closures can be reduced. It’s also credited for safer work zones, less environmental impact, reduced weather-related delays and bridges that are more durable than those constructed using traditional methods, according to the FHA.

The 950-ton bridge was meant to connect the school’s campus to the Sweetwater neighborhood, home to more than 4,000 FIU students, according to a press release on the school’s website.

Jorge Munilla, president of MCM, told CNN affiliate WSVN on March 10 the bridge’s construction was the realization of a dream. Munilla spoke as the bridge’s span was installed over the street.

“Now that dream is becoming reality,” he said. “The reality is, what makes this job so unique is that we built this bridge on the FIU campus over the last 6 to 7 months.”

A National Transportation Safety Board team of 15 investigators will arrive in Miami on Thursday night to lead the federal inquiry.

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10 people taken to the hospital

(CNN) – Kendall Medical Center received 10 patients from the bridge collapse, according to hospital staff.

Two people were in extremely critical condition and operated on immediately. Eight others were being treated and cared for.

The victims were between 20 to 50 years old, hospital staff said.

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Trump tweets: “Many brave First Responders rushed in to save lives”

President Trump has just tweeted about today’s bridge collapse at Florida International University in Miami.

The President was briefed on the bridge collapse this afternoon. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at the top of the press briefing today that the White House is monitoring the bridge collapse in Florida.

She added that the administration is ready to “offer whatever support needed” to the local officials and community.

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Construction company that built bridge was sued by injured TSA employee for faulty walkway

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

A Transportation Security Administration employee is suing Munilla Construction Management, one of the companies that built the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University, alleging a walkway it constructed collapsed under his weight and severely injured him.

Jose Perez, filed his lawsuit on March 5, claims the “make-shift” bridge walkway for employees at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport collapsed.

The lawsuit states: “The Defendant failed to properly maintain and examine the make-shift bridge walkway to make sure they were safe and strong enough to support the weight of an adult, and improperly allowed it to deteriorate to the point of total failure.”

“The Defendant employed incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled, or careless employees and/or failed to exercise proper supervision of said employees in maintaining the said area in proper, safe conditions,” according to the lawsuit.

Perez is seeking $15,000 in damages. MCM has not responded to the lawsuit in court, and did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

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Police sergeant works on victim for 15 minutes to keep the person alive

From CNN’s Saeed Ahmed

A Sweetwater police sergeant worked on a victim for 15 minutes to try to keep that person alive after the bridge collapse in Miami.

The sergeant, who was identified only by his last name Dolan, owns a business near the pedestrian bridge on the Florida International University campus, the mayor of Sweetwater said.

When the bridge fell, he rushed to the scene and tended to the wounded man, Mayor Orlando Lopez said.

Lopez was speaking to reporters at a Thursday afternoon news conference and didn’t offer additional details. He said he received the information from the sergeant’s wife because the sergeant was too shaken up to speak.

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8 people taken to hospitals, fire official says

(CNN) – Eight people were taken to hospitals as result of the bridge collapse, said an official with the Miami Fire-Rescue Department.

Miami-Dade fire said when they arrived on scene about 1:30 p.m. they found eight vehicles trapped under the collapsed bridge.

More than 100 firefighters were searching for victims at the scene, which remains a search-and-rescue operation.

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Deputy mayor: We are in “full search and rescue mode”

(CNN) – Maurice Kemp, Deputy Mayor of Miami-Dade County, said that search dogs, cranes and “all the heavy equipment we might need” are at the scene of the collapse, which is in full “search and rescue mode.”

He confirmed there were “multiple victims,” though a final number has yet to be determined.

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“This is horrific and something that I don’t think anybody could have foreseen, but obviously something went catastrophically wrong and we’re gonna have to have a lot of questions answered,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25th District) told CBS4 Miami.

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The bridge that just collapsed in Miami was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane

From CNN’s Saeed Ahmed

On paper, the 40-foot wide pedestrian bridge on Florida International University’s campus was an engineering feat, boasting several superlatives.

Here are some, as outlined by the university:

  • It was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
  • Its durability was supposed to exceed 100 years.
  • It’s the first bridge in the world to be constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete: It’s made of titanium dioxide which, when exposed to sunlight, captures pollutant particles from the air and cleans its own concrete surfaces.
  • It was installed in just a few hours just five days ago, although its construction wasn’t finished.
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Bridge construction company: “Nothing like this has ever happened before”

FIGG, one of the bridge builders, issued a statement regarding its collapse at Florida International University, saying it will work with authorities to find out what happened.

We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami. Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident. We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.

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Florida bridge built using using accelerated construction methods

(CNN) A press release from Florida International University highlighted the fact that this bridge was built with Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) methods, which “reduces potential risks to workers, commuters and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions.”

The Federal Highway Administration states that such methods help “reduce the onsite construction time” it takes to build or repair a bridge, which is meant to improve “work-zone safety for the traveling public” while reducting traffic impacts and weather-related construction delays.

It was, the university said, the largest pedestrian bridge moved via Self-Propelled Modular Transportation in U.S. history, (and also the first to be “constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete”).

FIU’s ABC-UTC Atorod Azizinamini, who the university says is one of the world’s leading experts on Accelerated Bridge Construction, was quoted as saying, “Building the major element of the bridge – its main span superstructure – outside of the traveled way and away from busy Eighth Street is a milestone.”

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The bridge was installed just this past weekend

Florida International University sent a press release on Saturday, March 10th, announcing that the bridge had been “lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare, and lowered into its permanent position.”

“FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in the statement.

“We are filled with pride and satisfaction at seeing this engineering feat come to life and connect our campus to the surrounding community where thousands of our students live.”

It also released a time-lapse video of the moment the bridge swung into place.

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Witness: “The cars were completely crushed”

Isabella Carrasco told CNN that she had just driven under the new bridge at Florida International University before it collapsed, and then described what she saw.

“The cars were completely crushed under,” she said.

Carrasco continued: “Someone on the side of the road had asked a police officer if they had heard any responses from the people inside the car and she shook her head and said, ‘no.'”

Carrasco said the scene at the bridge was chaotic. “There was debris everywhere,” she added.

“Quite frankly, I’m lucky to be alive,” Carrasco said. “That could have easily been me and my boyfriend under that bridge had we not turned right and decided to stay at the light and gone a different direction, or if we were stuck behind another car. We were right under that bridge. And my heart is broken and saddened. All the people affected by this. I’m absolutely in shock that this could happen.”

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President Trump has been briefed on the bridge collapse

(CNN) – Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at the top of the press briefing that the White House is monitoring the bridge collapse at FIU in Florida and that the President has been briefed on the matter.

She added that the administration is ready to “offer whatever support needed” to the local officials and community.

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