Friday 20 April 2018

Mayor claims Miami bridge was 'stress tested' before fatal collapse

Workers remove debris from the collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami. Photo: Reuters
Workers remove debris from the collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami. Photo: Reuters

Chris Stevenson

The Miami pedestrian bridge which collapsed on Thursday had undergone a "stress test" before it fell down, crushing cars on the road below and killing six people and injuring another 10, according to officials.

Rescuers worked through the night to try to free survivors from the rubble, and state and federal investigators were at the scene seeking to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said the bridge - which had only been up for five days and was not due to open to the public until 2019 - had undergone testing on Thursday, while Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the cables suspending the bridge had loosened and were being tightened "when it collapsed".

Two construction workers are believed to have been assigned to the bridge when it collapsed, trapping at least eight cars at the traffic lights below.

However, in a press conference yesterday, Miami-Dade police director Juan Perez was cagey in answering questions about stress tests and the issue of the cables, saying it had not yet been officially determined a "stress test" had taken place.

Officials could not say if any safety protocols had been ignored because the road beneath the bridge was allowed to remain open while workers were on the walkway.

Mr Perez urged people not to jump to conclusions, saying: "This is a tragedy we don't want to re-occur anywhere in the USA. We just want to find out what caused this collapse to occur and people to die."

Mr Perez did say the number of deaths could rise, with the potential for more bodies to be found as the mass of concrete is removed. Eight cars were trapped under the rubble, but Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said: "There's the sad possibility that under the concrete there may be additional vehicles."

The focus has shifted from search and rescue to recovery and investigation, with National Transportation Safety Board and Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials joining police and FBI agents to take command of the scene.

The $14.2m (€11.5m) bridge was intended as a safe way to cross six lanes of traffic between the Florida International University (FIU) campus and the community of Sweetwater, where many students live. At least one of the victims has been confirmed as an FIU student. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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