Official: 6 dead, 9 taken to hospital after pedestrian bridge collapsed at FIU

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Officials say four people are dead and nine were injured in a bridge collapse at Florida International University. (KTRK)

A pedestrian bridge being built across an eight-lane highway collapsed at a Miami-area college Thursday, killing six people, authorities said.

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey said at a news briefing Thursday evening that six deceased people had been found at the scene by first responders. He also said nine victims were removed "early on" and taken to hospitals.

He did not elaborate on their conditions.

"The main focus is to rescue people." said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. "As soon as those efforts are over, our homicide bureau will take the lead."

The $14.2 million bridge crossed over a busy seven-lane road highway that divided the university's campus from the city of Sweetwater.



The 950-ton span was installed on Saturday. The main part of the 174-foot span was assembled by the side of the road while support towers were built at either end.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene. Gov. Rick Scott said he was headed there as well.

"We have a national tragedy on our hands," Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said.

HORRIFIC: People trapped under rubble of collapsed bridge
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Video shows several people being loaded into ambulances after a bridge collapsed at Florida International University.



The "accelerated bridge construction" method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians and minimize traffic disruption, the university said.

"FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully," FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in the statement Saturday.

Cristina Rodriguez, a 23-year-old junior who was on spring break with other students, said she was not surprised when she heard the bridge collapsed.



"I just felt the bridge was done too quickly to believe the bridge was stable and sound to support everything that was on there," said Rodriguez, who was not on campus Thursday but drives through the intersection almost daily.

MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm who won the bridge contract, took its website down on Thursday.

"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," the company posted on Facebook. "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."

An archived version of the MCM's website featured a news release touting the project.

"This is our first Design-Build with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee. FIGG has designed iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston's famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge."

A message left at FIGG's office in Tallahassee was not immediately returned.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who spoke at a ceremony celebrating the bridge's construction over the weekend, told CBS there were going to be a lot of questions that have to be answered about what happened.

"Right now the most important thing is going to be to save people who are hopefully still alive," he said.



White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was monitoring the situation and would offer whatever support was needed.

Florida International University is the second-largest university in the state, with 55,000 students. Most of its students live off-campus. The bridge was supposed to be a safe way to cross a busy street and a plaza-like public space with seating where people could gather.

In August 2017, a university student was killed crossing the road that the bridge was supposed to span.

Full statement from Florida International University:
"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 Associated Press contributed to this report.
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