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Report: Worker Fled FIU Bridge Collapse

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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As the investigation into the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University continues, new information has come to light: A crane that was at the site at the time of the incident was driven away shortly after.

According to The Miami Herald, authorities did not start to wonder about the disappearance of the crane until some time after. Carl Robertson, a homeless man who lives near the site of the bridge, was the one to call in the information indicating that the crane's driver removed it from the site in the wake of the collapse.

Bridge Collapse

On March 14, the pedestrian bridge collapsed across eight lanes of the busy road below, flattening several vehicles.

The 950-ton, 174-foot-long span was assembled alongside the road while support columns were erected in place. On March 10, 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 Herald, and the process—known as Accelerated Bridge Construction—was touted by FIU as an innovative “instant” bridge technique.

National Transportation Safety Board, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As the investigation into the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University continues, new information has come to light: a crane that was at the site at the time of the incident was driven away shortly after.

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.

Most recently, the Herald asked four engineers to examine accidentally released documentation related to the collapse. Many agreed that the cracks signified potentially critical structural issues. Truss No. 11 was specifically identified by outside engineers as being “under-designed.” Largely, the engineers noted that the cracks that appear in the photos taken by the university should have prompted a cessation of work and an in-depth review.

Runaway Crane

Current reports indicate that the police don’t believe the crane or its operator were responsible for the bridge collapse. Instead, it’s possible the individual drove the equipment a short distance away to vacate the area for emergency vehicles.

The crane itself had been used to lift a piece of equipment used to adjust the span's internal steel supports, around the time the bridge came crashing down.

According to Robertson, within minutes of the bridge collapse, the operator stepped out of the crane, untied a strand of police tape that responding officers had tied to the equipment, went back in the rig, started it up and drove away.

"The emergency vehicles needed access," said attorney Bryant Blevins. "They were getting there pretty quickly after the collapse. At that point, he had to move the crane."

The attorney went on to add that the operator took the crane about 30 blocks north to the George's Crane lot in Sweetwater, which is where it remained. The operator reportedly returned later that night to help, however.

Capt. Alex Acosta of the Miami-Dade Police Department told the Herald that investigators think that the operator drove a few hundred feet from the site. While the individual’s name was not released, it has been confirmed that they spoke with police willingly. No action was taken against them.


Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Infrastructure

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (5/16/2018, 8:05 AM)

Basic rule for accidents is to not disturb the scene.

Comment from William Feliciano, (5/16/2018, 9:40 AM)

The first thing I thought about when I saw this on television was, why aren't they using one of the cranes to help lift debris and search for survivors? I understand there are risks associated with doing that. Yet, what is the alternative? I was deeply upset at how authorities didn't want anyone to meddle because this was an "accident scene". Easy to say when it's not your loved ones trapped in there.

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