Police say at least one person was killed and several others injured after a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) collapsed onto the six-lane road below, crushing several vehicles.
The bridge, which was still under construction, collapsed at around 2 p.m. Eastern Time. According to the Miami Herald, it “gave way suddenly while the traffic light for motorists on Tamiami Trail [the road below it] was red, so that the concrete span fell on top of a row of stopped vehicles.” There was no immediate explanation for the collapse.
Officials from the Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the fatalities on Thursday afternoon but did not immediately give an exact number or any of the victims’ identities. Miami-Dade County Police Chief Juan Perez said he was unable to give more detail because first responders were having a difficult time accessing many of the vehicles, which were still buried beneath the rubble.
“At this point, we can’t even tell how many cars are under there,” one police official told CBS4. “We won’t have a count on bodies for a while. It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
They added, “There were no warning signs. It looks like it just came down.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the outlet in a separate phone interview just before 4 p.m. Eastern Time that at least one person had died, and six others had been rushed to a nearby hospital with injuries. At least eight cars were still trapped in the debris.
Construction on the FIU bridge, which was meant to connect the university to the neighboring city of Sweetwater, began in 2017, but the project was not scheduled to be completed until early 2019. The bridge was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and part of a larger project that included a new plaza and several new sidewalks, according to the Miami New Times. MCM Construction and FIGG Bridge Design were tasked with carrying out the bridge’s development. Both companies have faced lawsuits in the past for unsafe practices, according to the Times.
“I’m shaking” Eyewitness videos show the scene at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, moments after a pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a roadway. https://t.co/q1ov3VchPl pic.twitter.com/O62pEZnLwZ
— ABC News (@ABC) March 15, 2018
In the weeks leading up to the collapse, FIU officials had bragged about the bridge’s development and one-of-a-kind construction, which required builders to “swing” assembled sections of the bridge into place in order to speed up the process. By Thursday afternoon, at least one tweet and a press release about the project had been deleted from the school’s Twitter account and website.
“We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge,” a university spokeswoman said in a statement. “At this time we are still involved in 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.”
MCM Construction said on its official Facebook page that it would conduct a “full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong.”
“Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy,” spokespersons wrote. “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 scene in every way.”
The engineering firm tasked with overseeing the project, BDI, told reporters it would issue a statement later in the day.
FIGG Bridge Design issued its own statement on Thursday afternoon, writing, “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.”
A spokesperson from Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office told the Miami Herald that the governor would be visiting the campus later in the day in order to be briefed by police and university officials.
This article has been updated to include a note about past lawsuits filed against MCM Construction and FIGG Bridge Design.