Pedestrian Bridge at Florida University Collapses onto Busy Highway, Crushing Eight Cars

Search-and-rescue crews are still digging for survivors.

byKyle Cheromcha| PUBLISHED Mar 15, 2018 4:44 PM
Pedestrian Bridge at Florida University Collapses onto Busy Highway, Crushing Eight Cars

A 950-ton pedestrian bridge that had been built just five days ago at the Florida International University campus in Miami collapsed without warning onto a busy highway on Thursday afternoon, crushing at least eight cars and killing an unknown number of people, according to the Miami Herald.

Images from the scene show the concrete slabs fell across almost the entire width of the Tamiami Trail, a major roadway that borders the FlU campus. Miami-Dade County Police confirmed that eight vehicles were stopped at a red light underneath the bridge during the sudden collapse, which caused an unknown number of fatalities. In video recorded by witnesses, the eeire sound of several stuck horns can be heard coming from the rubble.

Though the newly-constructed bridge wasn't open to pedestrian traffic yet, several construction workers were also on it when it fell. Tactical search-and-rescue teams from several area jurisdictions continue to comb the wreckage for survivors. At least eight people have been taken to the hospital so far.

Over the weekend, the university touted its 320-foot pedestrian bridge project as both a showcase of innovation construction techniques and its commitment to improving student safety by eliminating the need to cross the seven-lane highway that borders its campus. The bridge itself was designed using a special set of techniques developed by the school's Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, which aims to make the construction process safer and more streamlined by minimizing public disruptions.

The 175-foot main span was assembled at an offsite location and lifted into place early Saturday morning, a process that was recorded in a timelapse video promoted by the university. A press release put out by the university called it an "outstanding example" of the accelerated construction technique, while FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said that the "project accomplish[ed] our mission beautifully." The bridge also used a unique kind of self-sealing concrete, though it's too early to determine the exact cause of the tragedy.

In the aftermath of the collapse, FIU issued a statement saying it was "shocked and saddened" by the collapse and said it was "working closely" with authorities. The two local construction firms that built the bridge, MCM Construction and Figg Bridge Engineers, both issued statements expressing their devastation over the accident and pledging to cooperate with any investigations.

The cable-supported bridge was scheduled to open in 2019, with help from a $11.4 million contribution from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Students and faculty had reportedly been looking forward to the bridge for a long time to eliminate the need to cross Highway 41 on foot—last August, a student was struck and killed by a car at the that very intersection.

Miami Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp told reporters at a press conference that first responders are still in "full-on" search mode with heavy equipment standing by to help lift the giant slabs of concrete off the road and extract more victims.