Hours before a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami, FL, on Thursday, structural cracks in the edifice were discussed in a meeting between the bridge’s engineering company, its construction manager and representatives from Florida International University, the campus on which the bridge is located.
Figg Bridge Engineers delivered a technical presentation of the crack the day the bridge collapsed, but assured parties involved that “there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.”
Two days earlier, Figg’s lead engineer on the project left a voicemail for the Transportation Department notifying them of “some cracking that’s been observed on the north end,” but also said the cracks did not represent any safety threats.
At least six people were killed when the main span of the bridge collapsed onto the eight-lane roadway below. The victims were crushed in their cars. Recovery crews have been working around the clock trying to remove the crushed the vehicles from the rubble.
“It’s going to be a long process,” director of the Miami-Dade Police Department Juan Perez said.
The bridge located at Southwest 8th Street and US 41 in western Miami connected Florida International’s campus with the town of Sweetwater. Construction of the bridge began in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed in December. It was erected to make crossing 8th Street safer for students.
It is not yet known whether the cracking played an integral role in the bridge’s collapse. Constructions crews were working on a diagonal beam at the north end of the bridge around the time of the collapse.
Three bodies were discovered within two vehicles, Perez said, and authorities are currently working on the removal of two more vehicles. Workers were covering the vehicles with black sheeting and towing them, with police escorts, to the medical examiner’s office so that the bodies could be identified.
“We’re utilizing all the tools and equipment,” Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said on Thursday in the wake of the collapse. “We’re going to continue to search this pile until we’re sure there are no other victims.”
The Miami-Dade Police Department asked for support on Twitter shortly after the first two cars were recovered. “Please keep all the affected families and victims in your thoughts and prayers as we continue in our recover efforts,” they wrote.