The main span of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University constructed as recently as Saturday has collapsed, reportedly leaving “several” people dead and crushing cars underneath.
The span had been rapidly installed in less than a day, following months of planning, according to a story in the Miami Herald. The bridge was expected to open in 2019.
“Before Saturday’s installation, FIU said the method of overall installation significantly reduced the risk to workers, walkers, drivers and minimized traffic disruptions for construction,” the Herald reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the span to collapse. At a press conference, officials confirmed that eight vehicles were trapped under the bridge and eight victims had been transported to a nearby hospital. Some construction workers were on the bridge at the time the span fell apart, officials said. ABC said that a “stress test” had possibly been underway before the collapse, but officials declined to comment on the reports.
One of the companies involved in the project, Munilla Construction Management, said in a statement on Facebook that it’s “doing everything we can to assist.”
“We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way,” MCM said.
FIU advised drivers and students to avoid the area, while police worked to secure the scene. A Herald reporter at the scene said police had confirmed “multiple deaths.”
The university said in a brief statement that it was “shocked and saddened about the tragic events” that were unfolding at the scene.
“At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information,” the statement said. “We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene.”
The university highlighted the span in a video last week, calling it the “first-of-its-kind” and saying it was “about building bridge and student safety.” The 174-foot span weighed 950 tons and was built using so-called Accelerated Bridge Construction Methods that were designed by the university’s Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center.
“This method of construction reduces potential risks to workers, commuters and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions,” the university said in a press release on Saturday. “The main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge was installed in a few hours with limited disruption to traffic over this weekend.”
The $14.2 million project was designed as a cable-supported bridge by Munilla and Figg Bridge Design.
Just last week, TSA worker Jose Perez accused Munilla in a lawsuit of failing to properly construct and maintain a makeshift bridge at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. In the suit, dated March 5, Perez said he was walking to the bathroom when the bridge gave out.
“More specifically, the bridge broke under the weight of [Perez],” the suit said, “causing him to slip forward, fall to the floor, striking his elbow, shoulder, knees, back, and wrists.”
Figg was hired to design the replacement for a bridge on I35 in Minnesota that collapsed in 2007 and killed 13 people. The company issued a statement saying it was “stunned” by the collapse and that it would cooperate with investigators.
“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” Figg said. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
This post is being updated as we get more.