WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - The pedestrian bridge at Florida International University had just been installed on Saturday. Only five days later, the bridge collapsed onto the road, trapping cars and victims underneath.
In FIU’s press release announcing the bridge’s installation, the school said the structure would be built using Accelerated Bridge Construction, where the 174-foot section of the elevated pathway was built adjacent to Southwest Eighth Street and then put into place.
“This method of construction reduces potential risks to workers, commuters and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions,” the press release said. “The main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge was installed in a few hours with limited disruption to traffic over this weekend.”
Thursday’s collapse brought 950 tons of metal and concrete onto the road below, trapping eight vehicles underneath.
Munilla Construction Management (MCM), the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, took its website down on Thursday. But an archived version of the website featured a news release touting the project with FIGG Bridge Engineers, “a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee.”
The release said FIGG had designed “iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston’s famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge.”
MCM said on Twitter that it was “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.”
Louis Berger, a firm selected to conduct an independent, secondary review of the pedestrian bridge, told 7News in a statement, “Louis Berger was not involved in the construction phase of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge. At this point, we are concerned about those who have been the victims of this tragedy and support a vigorous investigation as to the cause as soon as possible.”
FIGG said in a statement it was “stunned by today’s tragic collapse.”
“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” the statement continued. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
FIGG was fined in 2012 after a 90-ton section of a bridge it was building in Virginia crashed onto railroad tracks below, causing several minor injuries to workers. The citation, from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, said FIGG did not do the proper inspections of the girder that failed and had not obtained written consent from its manufacturer before modifying it, according to a story in The Virginian-Pilot.
Court documents show that MCM was accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit said a worker at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where the company is working on an expansion, fell and injured himself when a makeshift bridge MCM built collapsed under the worker’s weight.
The suit charged the company with employing “incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled or careless employees” at the job site.
The lawsuit is still pending.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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