A pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami collapsed Thursday afternoon, killing and injuring multiple people.
The FIU bridge was under construction and when it came toppling down over SW 8th St. at 109th Ave., crushing at least eight vehicles on SW 8th St. underneath tons of concrete and steel. The Miami Herald reported that construction crews had finished dropping the bridge’s elevated span in place less than a week ago. The bridge was expected to be completed in early 2019.
The FIU bridge was being built to give university students a safer way to cross the busy street from the Miami campus to the commercial and residential zones of Sweetwater, Florida on the opposite side of SW 8th St.
At a press conference Thursday, officials said that recovery efforts were still underway but that eight people had been taken to local hospitals. There was one confirmed death at the time but several more fatalities are expected. Four cranes are on the scene to lift the wreckage off the crushed vehicles.
According to the Miami Herald, the FIU bridge was touted as an “instant bridge,” so named because the defining 950-ton pedestrian walkway was dropped in place in a single morning on Saturday, March 10.
“Before Saturday’s installation, FIU said the method of overall installation would significantly reduce the risk to workers, walkers, drivers and minimized traffic disruptions for construction.,” the Miami Herald reported.
The bridge was designed by FIGG Bridge Design, which designed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, and it was being built by MCM Construction. There are no details yet as to what caused the bridge to collapse.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were on their way to Miami to start an investigation.
FIU, the city of Miami, and others could potentially face premises liability issues over the bridge collapse. Property owners, including universities and municipalities, have legal responsibility for accidents, injuries, fatalities, and other incidents that occur on their land.
The engineering and construction practices of the companies involved with the FIU bridge’s design and construction will also fall under scrutiny in the days ahead. A number of factors can contribute to bridge failure in the early stages of construction or completion, most commonly the integrity of the cement used, any changes in construction that were not engineering approved, such as a substitution of materials, and lack of inspection for potential problems.