A pedestrian bridge under construction at the International University of Florida west of Miami collapsed Thursday afternoon, crushing eight vehicles on the highway and injuring several people, according to police.
Due to the size and weight of the walkway, it weighs more than 950 tons: the damage is significant, said Lieutenant Alex Camacho, Florida Highway and Motor Vehicle Safety. More Miami-Dade firefighter rescue teams he could count on were working on the scene, looking for survivors, he said. "I have no idea what's underneath, in the rubble," Camacho said.
Several emergency agencies are responding and the situation is evolving, according to Alvaro Zabaleta, spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department. The bridge, still under construction, was designed to connect the university campus with the city of Sweetwater, and crosses Southwest Eighth Street, a major highway that runs from downtown Miami to the western end of the county.
A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said the agency received a call shortly before 2 pm and that several people were injured, but there was no exact number available.
Southwest Eighth Street is closed in both directions when emergency teams work at the site, Camacho said.
The bridge, adjacent to the FIU campus, had just been installed over the weekend and was not yet open to pedestrians.
The National Transportation Safety Council said Thursday it was sending a team to Miami to investigate the collapse of the bridge.
A university spokeswoman did not return messages immediately seeking comment. But officials sent a statement on Thursday afternoon:
"We are shocked and saddened by the tragic events unfolding on the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge, and we are still involved in the rescue and information gathering efforts at this time. We are working closely with the authorities and the first responders on the scene, we will share the updates as we have them. "
A press release from Florida International University on Saturday promoted the bridge's "first-of-its-kind" method of construction, and praised the permanent installation of the bridge's main stretch. The section of the bridge was 174 feet and 960 tons, according to the statement and was built using the methods of "Accelerated bridge construction" that are being developed at the university.
"This method of construction reduces potential risks to workers, pbadengers and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions," the statement said.
Crews raised the span of its brackets, turned it 90 degrees into eight lanes and lowered it into place, according to the statement. The university said it was the largest pedestrian bridge moved by that method, known as Self-Propelled Modular Transportation, in the history of the US. UU
"This project is an outstanding example of the ABC method," said Atorod Azizinamini, president of FIU Civil. and the Department of Environmental Engineering, at the launch. "Building the main element of the bridge – its main stretch superstructure – out of the way traveled and away from the busy Calle Octava is a milestone."
Last year, the Miami Herald reported that an FIU student died while crossing Eighth West Street.
FIGG Engineering, which designed the bridge, issued a statement Thursday afternoon: "We are amazed by today's tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction on Southwest Eighth Street in Miami, and our deepest condolences are with Everyone affected by this accident will cooperate fully with all appropriate authorities in reviewing what happened and why.In our 40 year history, nothing like this has happened before.All of our team regrets the loss of lives and injuries badociated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go to everyone involved. "
When asked if construction methods could have influenced the collapse, Ron Sachs, a spokesman for FIGG Engineering, said he could not provide any details on the collapse beyond a statement issued by the company.
"They are in an investigation mode" together with the authorities, said about the company. "They are stunned and certainly in mourning."
Sachs said he believed there would be a thorough investigation that would involve the authorities, including the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"We will cooperate with each and every one of those," he said.
Mark Berman contributed to this report.