WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WHDH) – Four people have died and at least nine are injured after a pedestrian bridge under construction near Florida International University collapsed, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to reports of the bridge collapse at approximately 1:30 p.m., Thursday. Video posted to Twitter showed the bridge on top of several cars on Southwest Eighth Street near 109th Avenue, as police first responded to the scene.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, several people have been killed.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Division Chief Paul Estopinan said, “Our units responded to find eight trapped vehicles under the bridge. At this time, we transported eight victims to hospitals.”
According to doctors, two patients are in critical condition.
It is unknown if there was anyone on the bridge at the time, but search and rescue efforts are currently underway. All construction workers have been accounted for, and the university was in the middle of Spring Break. K9 dogs were seen searching rubble.
Estopinan said MDFR has scores of technical rescue personnel on the scene. “We have over 100 technically trained TRT, technical rescue specialist and our urban search and rescue team working on the bridge to find viable victims,” he said.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said police will not be releasing specific numbers about the deceased for some time. “The main focus here by the fire department obviously is to rescue people,” he noted. “That is what we’re assisting with by controlling traffic, assisting FHP for now. As soon as those efforts are over, our homicide bureau will take the lead in investigating this tragedy.”
One man at the scene, identified as Mario, said his friend was walking underneath the bridge the moment it collapsed. “My childhood friend, he was crossing as the bridge was coming down, and it hit him,” the man said in tears. “He was rushed to the hospital. I don’t know. I’m just so worried.”
The man said he is unsure if is friend is OK.
The main part of the 174-foot span was assembled at the side of the road while support towers were built at either end. The 950-ton bridge was meant to connect the City of Sweetwater directly with FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus and help people get across Eighth Street safe.
“Students have been killed crossing the road, so they were trying to prevent stuff by putting up the bridge,” said one student. “You can’t really expect for something like this to happen, and I think that’s all that it is. Everyone was trying to do their best part, and it was really a bold move for FIU.”
According to FIU police, family reunification will be at the FIU Student Academic Success Center. Pedestrians entering the campus should come in through the entrance at Southwest 107th Avenue and 16th Street. For more information on reuniting with family members at FIU, call 305-348-3481.
The university released a statement in response to the collapse, which reads, “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. We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene. We will share updates as we have them.”
The company constructing the bridge, Munilla Construction Management, also issued a statement on Facebook.
“Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. The new UniversityCity Bridge, which was under construction, experienced a catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life. MCM is 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 cooperate with investigators on scene in every way.
Gov. Rick Scott also said he is following the situation. “I have spoken with Miami-Dade County Police Chief Juan Perez about the pedestrian bridge collapse at FIU,” he wrote in a tweet. “I will be in constant communication with law enforcement throughout the day.”
Scott will also be visiting FIU Thursday evening to be debriefed by law enforcement.
FIGG Engineering, the company that designed the bridge, said this is the first time something like this has happened in their company’s history.
“We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami,” the company said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident. We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why.”
President Trump also Tweeted about the incident.
The National Transportation Safety Board said they are sending a team to investigate the incident.
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