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Judge Blocks Release of FIU Bridge Records

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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More than six months after the fatal bridge collapse at Florida International University, and following a recent court ruling that the Florida Department of Transportation must release the records associated with the tragedy, a federal judge has overturned the previous call, citing that the National Transportation Safety Board was exercising its valid authority in keeping the documents from the media.

Bridge Collapse, Previous Ruling

While the bridge was funded and overseen by FIU, FDOT was involved in the planning of the span, which was built over U.S. Route 41 in the Miami suburb of University Park. The bridge collapsed during post-tensioning on March 15, killing five civilians and one employee of subcontractor VSL.

FIU is home to the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, a multi-university center promoting ABC techniques. The pedestrian bridge was touted as an example of innovative design and construction meant to limit road closures and inconvenience stemming from the otherwise lengthy bridge construction process.

National Transportation Safety Board

More than six months after the fatal bridge collapse at Florida International University, and following a recent ruling that the Florida Department of Transportation must release the records associated with the tragedy, a federal judge has overturned the previous call, citing that the National Transportation Safety Board was exercising its valid authority in keeping the documents from the media.

In early May, the Miami Herald sued after two months of attempts to access documents related to the collapse, and in early June, FDOT asked a County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the suit. The newspaper said the agency acknowledged that the records fell under the state’s open-records law, but FDOT argued that their pertinence to the NTSB’s investigation meant they could not be released publicly.

Lawyers representing FDOT said that federal regulations prevented the agency from releasing any information given to the NTSB, which overrides Florida’s public records legislation. Yet tthese arguments were dismissed, with the judge noting at the that the documents did not stop being public when they were handed over to the safety board.

Ruling Overturned

Judge William Stafford’s decision overturns the previous ruling from a state court that would have had the records released under the state’s public records law. According to Stafford, the state did not have the appropriate jurisdiction to make such a ruling.

Notes from a meeting held hours before the bridge collapsed are included in the case documents. According to the Miami Herald, the meeting was held because alarming cracks had appeared on the span even before it was raised to be put in place. Workers were standing on the bridge at the time of the collapse, which may have contributed to the accident.

Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, executive editor for the Herald, noted her disappointment in the ruling, calling it a “devastating decision that renders moot Florida’s public records law.” The newspaper does have the option to appeal the ruling.

NTSB spokesperson Christopher O’Neil said that the ruling affirms the protection of information that preserves “the integrity of the NTSB’s investigative process. He went on to add that the agency will release evidence that is linked to the probable cause before a final report is released.

Ed Seifert, a spokesperson for FDOT, said that the agency would follow Stafford’s ruling, noting that the department has consistently asserted that the restrictions placed by the NTSB prevented the release of the records to the public.

   

Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Government; Infrastructure; Laws and litigation; NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board)

Comment from Martin Rose, (10/10/2018, 7:13 AM)

Because protecting corporations is more important than the right of Wee the People to be informed.


Comment from Gary Siler, (10/10/2018, 8:26 AM)

Typical government (judiciary) overreach. Perhaps, Judicial Watch will file a federal FOIA request, followed by a lawsuit, if necessary, to force release of the documents. For what or for whom is the public being blindfolded from seeing publicly funded documents?


Comment from john lienert, (10/10/2018, 8:37 AM)

What are you hiding from the murder investigation ?.....the MURDERERS !!


Comment from William Hardy, (10/10/2018, 9:17 AM)

“Workers were standing on the bridge at the time of the collapse, which may have contributed to the accident.” That’s a ridiculous claim... How about poor design and wanting to “show off” in your own backyard contributing to the accident. Not shutting down traffic should be the first sign that someone had their head shoved where the sun don’t shine when this happened.


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