A new pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a highway at a Miami-area college Thursday, crushing at least five vehicles under massive slabs and killing several people, authorities said.
Several people were seen being loaded into ambulances and authorities launched search and rescue missions. Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho told CBS News that there were “several fatalities.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tweeted that “multiple” people were injured when the Florida International University bridge collapsed. Authorities said they were working on confirming the numbers. The bridge was still under construction and expected to open to foot traffic next year.
“We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information,” the statement said.
The $14.2 million bridge crossed over a busy seven-lane highway that divided the university’s campus from the city of Sweetwater. The 950-ton span was installed on Saturday to great fanfare. The main part of the 174-foot span was assembled by the side of the road and had to be moved into place. The “accelerated bridge construction” method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption, the university said.
“FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in the statement Saturday.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene. Gov. Rick Scott tweeted that he was headed there as well.
“I will be in constant communication with law enforcement throughout the day,” the governor said.
MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, took its website down on Thursday. But an archived version of the website featured a news release touting the project.
“This our first Design-Build with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee. FIGG has designed iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston’s famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge.”
MCM said on twitter that it was “a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will co-operate with investigators on scene in every way.”
A message left at FIGG’s office in Tallahassee was not immediately returned.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who spoke at a ceremony celebrating the bridge’s construction over the weekend, told CBS there were going to be a lot of questions that have to be answered about what happened.
“Right now the most important thing is going to be to save people who are hopefully still alive,” he said.
Florida International University is the second-largest university in the state, with 55,000 students. Most of its students live off-campus and they were on spring break when the collapse happened. The bridge was supposed to be a safe way to cross a busy street and a plaza-like public space with seating where people could gather.
In August 2017, a university student was killed crossing the road that the bridge was supposed to span.
Florida International University is also home to the National Hurricane Center.
Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press