NTSB officials have still not been able to access the FIU bridge accident site. AP Photo
As rescue workers continued recovery efforts at the site of the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University in the city of Sweetwater on Friday, officials were waiting to get a chance to do their job.
At least six have been confirmed dead and more may be pulled from the rubble, but the cause of the March 15 accident may not be known for days. Officials can confirm construction crews were on-site when the pedestrian bridge went down, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was quick to blame loose cables as a possible cause, but NTSB officials were still waiting to get to the accident scene on Friday morning. Rubio said crews were in the process of tightening those cables, but recovery efforts were preventing any investigation from taking place. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said a team was near the site between 10 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday morning before returning later on in the day.
The whole purpose of the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Southwest 8th Street and 109th Avenue was because of safety. Last year an FIU student was killed trying to cross 8th Street, and FIU announced on March 14 it would start issuing fines as part of a pedestrian safety campaign to help protect students walking to campus from the city of Sweetwater and Westchester. The bridge, which connected FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus to Sweetwater and was scheduled to be open in early 2019, was being constructed using accelerated bridge construction (ABC) methods. Self-propelled modular transporters were used to place the 174-ft main span on March 10, and FIU claimed it was the largest pedestrian bridge moved by that method to date.
FIU is one of the most influential drivers of ABC in the country. It is home to the Acclerated Bridge Construction-University Transportation Center and receives millions in federal funding to research and promote ABC.
Munilla Construction Management is the prime contractor of the bridge and has won a number of federal contracts over the years, but also has been involved in dozens of lawsuits. None were considered serious; however the firm was sued this month when a makeshift bridge collapsed while a security worker used it to access a restroom at the Miami International Airport.
To see a surveillance video of the collapse, click here.