FIU students return to classes after bridge collapse that killed 6

WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Students at Florida International University will be returning to their classes for the first time since a bridge collapse that killed six people, including an FIU student.

When the bridge came crashing down onto traffic Thursday afternoon, classes were not in session during the Spring break holiday

People in the area were excited about the bridge, as it was meant to make transportation easier for nearly 4,000 students who live in Sweetwater.

“I was like ‘They just built that. How could that be?’ I was shocked. I didn’t believe it happened when it did,” said student Michael Garcia.

“It’s a sad feeling. It definitely shouldn’t have happened,” said student Gabriella Aquino.

However, many students returning to school are still trying to make sense of what happened.

“I can’t really describe it. It’s a really nasty feeling,” said Stephanie Previl. “You don’t think something like that’s going to happen. The bridge was here and then — now it’s not.”

There are several events planned for students, including a vigil that will take place Wednesday to mourn the loss of one of their own.

Meanwhile, a federal investigation is underway to discover what happened.

On Friday, a voicemail sent to the Department of Transportation was released about the concern of cracking on the structure. It was left by an engineer who worked on the bridge two days before the accident.

However, at the time, the cracking was not deemed to be dangerous.

“I would have to say that a crack in a bridge does not necessarily mean that it’s unsafe,” said NTSB investigator Robert Accetta.

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the cracking and other possible causes. The NTSB said crews were trying to strengthen the bridge at the time of the collapse.

“Crews were applying post-tensioning force that is designed to strengthen the diagonal member,” Accetta said. “This is the location where they working.”

Despite the tragedy, some students hope the university will find a way to build the bridge.

“I hope that they do build it. I really do. But I hope they build it correctly and they do all the tests they need to do before they give the OK,” said Aquino.

Matt Morgan of the law firm Morgan & Morgan has filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of the victim’s injured in the bridge collapse.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend payment of all federal funding allocated for the FIU pedestrian bridge, according to a press release from his office. The department acted as a “pass-through” for that funding. It will be withheld indefinitely, pending the completion of the NTSB investigation into the bridge collapse.

“Last week, the lives of six Floridians were tragically lost when the FIU pedestrian bridge suddenly collapsed onto SW 8th Street in Miami. Ann and I are heartbroken for these families and while we continue to mourn the loss of these individuals, we are also searching for answers,” he said.

“Today, I am directing FDOT to suspend all future payments of the more than $13.6 million in federal funding originally allocated for this project. Before another dollar is spent on this bridge, we must know exactly what happened. FDOT is working hand-in-hand with the NTSB in its investigation and until this is completed, all taxpayer dollars will be withheld.”

As the investigation continues and the scene is cleared, traffic will be detoured. Southwest Eighth Street is closed indefinitely from 107th to 117th Avenue. Officials suggest drivers take either roadway southbound to Coral Way to avoid the closure.

MDX has also suspended all tolls along the Dolphin Expressway near FIU to help alleviate some of the congestion.

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