First responders are scrambling to free people trapped after a newly-constructed pedestrian bridge in Miami collapsed Thursday. While it's not immediately clear how many people may have been killed or injured in the collapse, the Florida Highway Patrol told CNN that "five to six vehicles" had been crushed under the bridge at Florida International University and there were "several fatalities."
According to Florida International University, the pedestrian bridge was still closed to foot traffic at the time of its collapse having only been placed into its permanent position over 8th Street at the intersection of 109th Avenue on Saturday. Vehicular traffic, however, has continued to flow on an eight-lane thoroughfare beneath the bridge during its construction. The bridge connected the university's northern entrance with the neighboring city of Sweetwater.
One witness told CNN that cars trapped under the bridge were "completely crushed" and there was "debris everywhere." Another said those attempting to help were somewhat limited as they could not immediately get under the rubble and another portion of the bridge "was also looking like [it] would slip and fall." According to the Miami Herald, police at the scene said "at least six people could be dead."
In a statement released shortly after the bridge collapsed, senior university leaders said they were "shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge." They went on to say they were still gathering information as they worked with authorities and first responders. Students, faculty, and staff were advised to avoid the area in a campus-wide alert posted to the university's Twitter account.
Munilla Construction Management, one of the firms working to build the bridge, extended their "thoughts and prayers" to everyone affected by the bridge's collapse in a statement released Thursday over Twitter.
"MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist," the company said. "We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."
Figg Bridge Design, which according to the Miami Herald collaborated on the bridge with Munilla Construction Management, said Thursday it was "stunned" by the collapse.
"Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident," a statement released by the company said. "In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved." The company has promised to cooperate with any investigation into the collapse.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he would cancel a tax-cut highlight event scheduled to take place in Sanford in order to visit Florida International University to be briefed on the bridge's collapse by local law enforcement and university officials. The National Transportation Safety Board also announced Thursday that it was sending a team to "investigate" the bridge's collapse and would release more information "when available."
Until recently, university officials had been celebrating the pedestrian bridge, which weighed 950 tons and spanned 174-feet. According to the university, it was built "using a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction" in an effort to keep traffic disruption to a minimum. Florida International University President Mark B. Rosenberg said the university was "filled with pride and satisfaction at seeing this engineering feat come to life" in a statement released Saturday after the bridge was dropped into place on March 10.
"FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully," Rosenberg said at the time.
Construction on the bridge was not expected to finish until sometime in early 2019.