Homicide detectives, FBI scour scene as Miami bridge death toll rises

MIAMI — Homicide detectives and the FBI are working alongside engineers at the scene of the Miami bridge collapse seeking clues about what went wrong, officials said early Friday.

At least six people were killed when the 950-ton pedestrian bridge near Florida International University’s campus came down at around 1:30 p.m ET on Thursday.

Authorities worked through the night picking through the mess of concrete and debris, going slowly due to the fragility of the mangled structure and to preserve evidence relevant to the investigation.

“Things that are part of the evidence are going to be placed on a separate side to be transported somewhere else as the investigation continues,” Det. Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department, told reporters during an earlier briefing Friday.

Zabaleta said the fire department had relinquished the lead on the investigation to the police. Personnel from the FBI, NTSB, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were also at the site.

The rescue effort has involved four cranes, heavy equipment, search teams and dogs.

“You have to understand that this is a very slow process,” he added. “We’ve been working throughout the entire night.”




Image: A pedestrian bridge collapses crushing vehicles underneath in Miami

A car is pinned under the bridge near Florida International University. GIORGIO VIERA / EPA

Officials warned earlier that eight vehicles had been trapped under the bridge, but Zabaleta said “there’s the sad possibility that under the concrete there may be additional vehicles,” warning the death toll could rise.

At least 10 people were taken to the hospital with injuries, he said. None were immediately identified.

Among those treated at the scene was Richard Humble, a sophomore at FIU who said that he was in the passenger seat of a car with his friends at the exact moment the bridge collapsed.

“We were parked at a red light and I started to hear the bridge creak,” Humble said. “So I looked up and I saw the bridge falling on top of us.”

He said the roof of the car caved in on his head, squishing his neck. He frantically called out to his friend in the driver’s seat.

“I was screaming her name so loud cause I just wanted her to hear it,” Humble said, “and she just wouldn’t respond.”

Humble got out of the car to call his mother. He doesn’t know what happened to his friend, who is still considered missing.

“All he said was he had a lot of blood around me,” Humble’s mother, Lourdes, later said. “‘It’s not mine, mom. I have a lot of blood.'”

Humble added that he feels “very grateful to be alive. But I just don’t feel so lucky right now.”

The bridge was scheduled to open early next year and designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.

Cables were attached to the walkway to take the weight off the structure, renderings show. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted Thursday that the cables had loosened and the engineering firm requested that they be tightened.

“They were being tightened when it collapsed,” Rubio wrote.

The engineering company monitoring the project, BDI of Louisville, Colorado, said in a statement it was “deeply saddened” by the collapse.

Miami-based contractor MCM Construction and Tallahassee-based Figg Bridge Design said in separate statements that they will cooperate with investigators.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott vowed that officials would figure out “why this happened and what happened,” and hold accountable those involved because the victims and their families deserve to know “what went wrong.”

The pedestrian bridge connected the FIU campus to the town of Sweetwater, where the university estimates some 4,000 students live.

The university had celebrated the unveiling of the walkway five days prior to the collapse.

Gabe Gutierrez reported from Miami, Alexander Smith from London, and Erik Ortiz from New York.

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