Miami Bridge Engineer Left Shocking Message Two Days Before Collapse
The Miami bridge engineer who oversaw the newly built footbridge, which crumbled onto a roadway killing at least six people, had called the state Transportation Department two days before to report cracks found in the span.
Yet the engineer’s message, including his assertion the cracking posed no safety issue, was left on an answering machine of a department employee who was away from the office at the time.
It was not retrieved until Friday, a day after the tragedy, according to the agency.
The pedestrian bridge, which weighted 950-tons and cost $14.2 million, crossed an eight-lane highway adjacent to Florida International University (FIU). Its purpose was to link the campus with the city of Sweetwater.
The collapse happened on Thursday, March 15, crushing vehicles in traffic below.
Late on Friday, March 16, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) released a transcript of a voice-mail the agency said was left by Denney Pate – the senior vice president and principal bridge engineer for private contractor FIGG.
In the voicemail, Pate said his team had observed ‘some cracking’ at one end of the bridge and how repairs were warranted, ‘but from a safety perspective we don’t see there’s any issue there, so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective’, report The Telegraph.
He added in the message, how, obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ‘ya know, done to repair that.’
The transportation agency described Pate as: ‘FIGG’s lead engineer responsible for the FIU pedestrian bridge project’ and part of the walkway’s ‘design build team.’
You can watch the video below about the bridge collapse:
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This disclosure came just hours after US Senator Bill Nelson of Florida demanded documents related to the design, construction, safety and inspection of the fallen bridge, while both federal and local investigators worked to determine the cause of the collapse.
Nelson, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wrote to the FDOT saying:
If anyone dropped the ball and it contributed to this tragedy, then they should be held accountable.
At least six people were confirmed dead as a result of the collapse and police have said more bodies may be recovered from the rubble.
The incident occurred just five days after the bridge was installed during a six-hour operation.
Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said at a news conference:
We know that there’s people missing, the family members know that there’s people missing and what we can tell them is that we can assume that they’re in there.
It was too early to say whether anyone might face criminal charges, Perez said.
Munilla Construction Management (MCM), the company who installed the bridge, said they were devastated by what happened and were cooperating with investigators, as well as doing everything they could to help.
The Miami-based company is said to employ about 500 people and specialises in civil projects, airports and educational facilities.
Since being founded in 1983, they’ve handled billions of dollars worth of projects in places including Panama and Florida.
The Florida Transportation Department said on Friday one of its consultants on the project attended a meeting with members of the bridge design and construction team shortly before the walkway failed and was ‘not notified of any life-safety issues.’
Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.