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Thursday 26 April 2018

At least four dead in Florida bridge collapse

The search and rescue was continuing after nightfall.

University Bridge Collapse
University Bridge Collapse

By Adrian Gomez Licon, Associated Press

Four people have been found dead in the rubble of a collapsed pedestrian bridge in south Florida as a frantic search for any survivors continued, officials said.

Miami-Dade County fire chief Dave Downey said that his crew is using high-tech listening devices, trained sniffing dogs and search cameras in a race to find anyone still alive in the rubble.

The 14.2 million US dollar (£10.19 million) pedestrian bridge was supposed to open in 2019 as a safe way for students to cross the busy road. It linked the community of Sweetwater with the campus of Florida International University (FIU).

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(Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP)

“We have to remove some of this piece by piece. It’s very unstable.” Aerial footage at the site showed a trained dog running atop fallen concrete and sniffing in the crevices for any victims,” he said.

But Miami-Dade Police director Juan Perez acknowledged the likelihood of finding more victims under the rubble is slim.

“We know that there’s going to be a negative outcome at the end of the day,” Mr Perez said.

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(Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Four people were found dead and at least nine others were injured and taken to local hospitals; officials at one point said 10 were injured.

Governor Rick Scott also spoke to reporters, saying “everybody is working hard to make sure we rescue anyone who can be rescued”.

The Florida governor added that an exhaustive investigation now beginning will get to the bottom of “why this happened and what happened” and vowed that anyone who did anything wrong would be held accountable.

Miami-Dade police director Juan Perez praised the actions of first responders during a news conference but acknowledged the likelihood of finding more victims under the rubble was growing more difficult with the passage of time.

“We know that there’s going to be a negative outcome at the end of the day,” Mr Perez said.

Four people were found dead and at least nine others were injured and taken to local hospitals; officials at one point said 10 were injured.

Florida governor Rick Scott and US Senator Marco Rubio attended the evening briefing.

Mr Rubio said the public and the families of the dead and injured deserve to know “what went wrong”.

Mr Scott added that an investigation will get to the bottom of “why this happened and what happened”. He said that if anyone did anything wrong, “we will hold them accountable”.

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt III said a team of specialists was heading to Miami on Thursday night with plans to begin its investigation Friday morning.

The project was a collaboration between MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor, and Figg Bridge Design, based in Tallahassee. Figg is responsible for the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay.

Figg issued a statement on Thursday saying the company was “stunned” by the collapse and promising to cooperate with investigations.

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

MCM Construction Management, which is building the bridge, posted a message to the company’s Facebook page promising “a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong”.

FIU president Mark Rosenberg said during a news conference that tests were being done on Thursday. Authorities said two construction workers were on the bridge when it collapsed; it is unclear what the tests were or if they contributed to the failure.

“This bridge was about goodness, not sadness,” Mr Rosenberg said. “Now we’re feeling immense sadness, uncontrollable sadness. And our hearts go out to all those affected, their friends and their families. We’re committed to assist in all efforts necessary, and our hope is that this sadness can galvanise the entire community to stay the course, a course of goodness, of hope, of opportunity.”

Press Association

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