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FL Bridge Collapse Survivor Sues Designer

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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The first civil lawsuit stemming from last week's pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida has been filed, claiming negligence on part of the companies in charge of the span’s design and construction, while elsewhere, some are raising concerns over the fact that one of the fallen span's designers is working on a major bridge replacement project in Texas.

Marquise Rashaad Hepburn was “seriously injured” as he rode his bicycle underneath the pedestrian bridge that was being built for Florida International University, according to the suit filed on his behalf. A driver striving to avoid falling concrete swerved into Hepburn, who survived the crash and the collapse but was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.

Bridge Collapse

At around 2 p.m. on Thursday (March 14) the span—which had just been set in place on Saturday (March 10)—collapsed across eight lanes of the busy road below, flattening several vehicles.

National Transportation Safety Board, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The first civil lawsuit stemming from the pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida has been filed, claiming alleged negligence on part of the companies in charge of the span’s design and construction. According to reports, one of the span designers is also working on a bridge replacement project in Texas.

The 950-ton, 174-foot-long span was assembled alongside the road while support columns were erected in place. On Saturday, the span was lifted off the ground with a mechanical transporter, swung into position, then lowered onto the support columns. Sliding it into place took six hours, noted the Miami Herald, and the process—known as Accelerated Bridge Construction—was touted by FIU as an innovative “instant” bridge technique.

According to CNN, shortly after the span was installed, W. Denney Pate, an engineer with bridge firm FIGG, which was part of the design-construction team,, noticed there was an issue—a crack had formed along the north side of the bridge, and repairs were needed.

Injury Lawsuit

In the lawsuit, Hepburn has listed FIGG Bridge Engineers and Munilla Construction Management, who collaborated as a design-build team for the project. Others named include: Bolton Perez & Associates, consulting engineer; Louis Berger, independent peer reviewer, and Network Engineering Services. The complaint alleges that FIGG, MCM and BPA did not adequately recognize the danger the cracks on the bridge posed, also noting that traffic should have been diverted while the bridge was undergoing stress testing.

FIU was not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

As it stands, Hepburn is suing for damages, amounting to $15,000, excluding attorney’s fees, costs and interest. Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan will be representing Hepburn in the case.

Representatives from MCM, FIGG and BPA did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment on Monday, but have said otherwise said they will cooperate fully with investigations into the incident.

Harbor Bridge Project

According to the Caller Times, FIGG is also serving as the lead engineer for the replacement Harbor Bridge project currently under construction in Corpus Christi, Texas. The cable-stayed bridge, set to be the longest in the U.S., will be 540 feet tall at its tallest point, and is slated for completion in 2020.

The company has issued a statement saying that no other bridge it has designed has ever experienced such a collapse.

"The Harbor Bridge Project is a different project and is not related to the project in Florida. Therefore, we have no comment," said Flatiron Dragados LLC project management, the firm overseeing construction of the Harbor Bridge replacement.


Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Infrastructure; Laws and litigation; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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