First two cars removed from underneath collapsed bridge

Authorities said Friday that the cables suspending a pedestrian bridge were being tightened after a "stress test" when the 950-ton concrete span collapsed over traffic, killing at least six people only days after its installation was celebrated as a technological innovation.

"Amjad Aref, a professor at University of Buffalo's Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, said a suspended bridge is typically built gradually, with the center tower or towers erected early". Two other workers who were employed by the company were hospitalized and are in stable condition. The bridge was the first in the world to be constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete, said the university. "My little girl was trapped in the vehicle and couldn't get out", her father, Orlando Duran, told local press.

According to FDOT, the voicemail was not heard by an agency employee until Friday as he was out of the office on assignment.

On Thursday, emergency services had been racing to find survivors in the rubble using hi-tech listening devices, sniffer dogs and search cameras.

A college student who narrowly escaped from a auto that was smashed in the collapse said he watched helplessly as the structure tumbled down on top of the vehicle and killed his friend Alexa Duran, who was sitting next to him in the driver's seat. The school has always been interested in this kind of bridge design; in 2010, it opened an Accelerated Bridge Construction-University Transportation Center to "provide the transportation industry with the tools needed to effectively and economically utilize the principles of ABC to enhance mobility and safety, and produce safe, environmentally friendly, long-lasting bridges".

A Florida International University student was among the fatalities, and several construction workers were among the 10 people injured. A friend traveling with Duran tried but couldn't pull her out.

The agency says that at no time did it receive a request to close the entire road.

Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, referred questions about the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board.

8News found that back in 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) discovered evidence of corrosion in one of the six steel strands located inside the Varina-Enon Bridge along the southbound approach span. VDOT restricted specially permitted loads from driving over the bridge while repairs were underway. But the state Transportation Department said it had no knowledge of any such tests being scheduled since the bridge was installed last Saturday.

The goal of the $14 million project was to provide a safe path over the busy highway after the death of an FIU student a year ago.

FIGG collaborated on the project with MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor.

Bolton Perez and Associates, a third company involved in the construction of the bridge, would not immediately comment. And, according to CNN, he cited in the voicemail that there were no safety concerns on the project near Florida International University.

MCM, a construction firm building the bridge, said in a statement it would "conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way".

  • Joey Payne