MIAMI (AP/WSVN) – Federal safety inspectors released new photos Thursday showing cracks in the concrete of an under-construction, pedestrian bridge just days before it collapsed near a Florida university.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued another preliminary report in the investigation of the March 15 collapse that killed a bridge worker and five vehicle occupants.
The agency had previously released Feb. 24 photos documenting small cracks at the ends of the bridge. The new photos, featuring four larger cracks, were taken after March 10, when the prefabricated bridge was transported from a casting yard and set into place on permanent piers.
Alan Goldfarb, an attorney who is representing the family of victim Alexa Duran, addressed the newly released photos on Thursday.
“They are shocking. Further confirmation of substantial cracks in multiple areas progressing and worsening before the bridge collapse,” he said.
Duran was the youngest of the six victims in the collapse that took place along busy Southeast Eighth Street.
“When you see something like this, it just makes it more upsetting,” said Goldfarb. “You get angrier.”
The new photos beg the question, how much did crews know about the cracks in the days leading up to the collapse?
One of the FIGG Bridge engineers on the project left a voicemail about cracks. He didn’t appear to e overly concerned.
“We have taken a look at it and, obviously, some repairs will have to be done, but from a safety perspective, we don’t see an issue there,” the engineered said in the voicemail.
But structural engineer Linwood Howell said the cracks are clearly serious, and the road beneath the bridge should not have been open.
“The cracks growing that size, that means they should totally have stopped everything at that point,” said Howell, “because that size of a crack, a quarter inch or more, I mean, you are talking about structural failure at that point.”
Investigators interviewed employees from eight companies involved in the bridge’s design and construction, the report said. Experts have also tested concrete, steel rods and a hydraulic jack. The report didn’t include any test results or conclusions about what might have caused the collapse.
The bridge was to span a busy highway and canal and connect Florida International University’s campus to the neighboring community of Sweetwater.
The bridge was highlighted by FIU officials as an achievement for an accelerated construction method that was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption.
When the bridge fell, construction was behind schedule and millions over budget, in part because of a key change in the design and placement of one of the span’s supports, public documents showed.
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