Six Dead, Nine Sent to Hospital After FIU Bridge Collapse

Update: The number of confirmed deaths has increased to six, according to Miami-Dade Police.

Four people have died in the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University's Modesto Maidique Campus, Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Chief Dave Downey said in a late-evening news conference.

"We have located up to four victims, four deceased," Downey said, adding that nine injured people have been transported to local hospitals for treatment. He said rescue personnel will be working "round-the-clock" overnight to find any possible remaining victims.

All 950 tons of the main span of the $14.2 million, 174-foot bridge crashed onto the road around 1:30 this afternoon. The structure, which spans all six lanes of SW Eighth Street at 109th Avenue in West Miami-Dade, had been installed only five days ago. Last Saturday, FIU, governmental officials, and construction firms blasted out celebratory images of the bridge being installed using a technique called "accelerated bridge construction," or "ABC," which is designed to build the structures as fast as possible. Instead, the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge, which was not scheduled to open to foot traffic until 2019, collapsed onto eight cars waiting at a red light.

Earlier today, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (who is in Hong Kong researching public transportation projects) said the bridge had undergone a "stress test" this morning just before the collapse. Some engineers have speculated the test might have triggered the disaster, but the accident's official cause has not yet been determined.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott spoke at tonight's presser. He confirmed he had spoken to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos before addressing the media.

"I know everybody is working hard to make sure that we continue to rescue anyone that can be rescued," Scott said. He added that the state will "hold anyone accountable if anyone has done anything wrong."
As New Times reported earlier today, the major construction firms behind the project have been accused of shoddy work in the past. The company that engineered the project, Figg Bridge Group, designed a bridge in Virginia that also suffered a partial collapse during construction in 2012. Figg officials said the failure was due to a construction problem rather than a design issue.

At a news conference this evening, FIU President Mark Rosenberg stood by the construction firms that installed the project.

"This has been one of the most intensely managed processes that is around because of the federal support for it," he said. "I'm sure that there will be more that we will be finding out in the next couple of days."
Rosenberg then said it was premature to discuss whether the bridge will be rebuilt.

"Our thoughts are with the families and the victims," he said.