By: Allan M. Siegel
Officials from Miami-Dade County have reported that at least six victims
were killed when a 950 ton bridge near Florida International University
collapsed over a busy road Thursday afternoon. As federal officials begin
their investigation of the catastrophic Miami bridge collapse, authorities
continuing to shift through the debris to remove victims have stated that
the death toll may rise. At least 10 victims were also transported to
a local hospital to be treated for injuries.
The collapsed bridge was a pedestrian-only walkway connecting the city
of Sweetwater, FL to the campus of Florida International University, and
one of the victims killed was an FIU student. According to public officials,
the foot bridge was still under construction and being installed when
it came crashing down. Senator Marco Rubio said workers were also tightening
suspension cables at the time.
Given the severity of the incident, federal officials from the FBI, National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) have taken the lead in the investigation. Their
efforts will focus not only on clearing the wreckage and preserving evidence,
but also determining what led to the collapse, whether it could and should
have been prevented, and if negligence played a role.
Officials Discuss Potential Causes
Although the bridge was scheduled to open early next year, it was designed
in a way to allow for ongoing construction that would not impede traffic,
and also allow pedestrians and cars could to pass under the structure
once it was installed and being finalized. Because the project used accelerated
bridge construction, technology that has been championed by FIU and is
being increasingly used across the country, the entirety of the walkway
was built at a nearby location and transported and installed across the
section of road leading to FIU within a matter of hours.
Unveiled just five days prior to the collapse, the pedestrian bridge was
the largest to date to have been constructed in this manner, and the first
in the world to have been made using self-cleaning concrete, which lasts
longer than traditional building materials and reduces pollution by absorbing
pollutants from the air. The bridge was also designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.
In light of the advanced construction methods, new building materials,
and speed and scope of the project, many officials are asking federal
agencies whether or not they may have played a role in the collapse, as
well as what standards and regulations apply to these new technologies
so that speed does not compromise safety. In a press conference held Thursday
afternoon, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez also discussed the possibility
that the bridge may have been undergoing a “stress test” at
the time of the collapse, as well as whether suspension cables were being
tightened. Two workers were on the bridge when it crashed down.
BDI of Louisville, the engineering company overseeing the project, as well
as the Miami-based contractor Munilla Construction Management (MCM), have
stated they intend to cooperate with officials during the investigation.
Since the collapse, however, it was soon discovered that MCM is a major
contributor to political parties in South Florida and that it was recently
sued for damages suffered by a security guard who was injured when a ”makeshift
bridge” collapsed near the Miami airport. Officials have called
for further reviews into the construction firm and their role in the pedestrian
Significant Questions for Victims and the Public
Tragedies as devastating and significant as the Miami bridge collapse raise
significant questions for victims and families who must now cope with
the untimely loss of their loved ones. Those questions revolve around
whether those deaths could have been prevented, as well as who should
be held responsible for their damages. The incident is also important
to the public, as American citizens have the right to know whether certain
structures, construction projects, failures in regulatory oversight, or
other factors could lead to similar tragedies that have the potential
to harm them or their loved ones.
Answers to these questions are not easy to come by, which is why investigations
conducted by authorities and regulators are so critical. Personal injury
lawyers who represent victims and families of these large-scale accidents
also play an important role in unearthing and exposing information important
to their clients’ fight for justice, and public safety.
Our attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. express
our sincere condolences to everyone affected by this tragic event. Having
represented victims and families of major transportation accidents throughout
the years, we know there is much work to be done if important questions
are to be answered. We hope all parties involved can help further our
understanding of what led to the collapse and how similar incidents can
be prevented, and are always available to help victims and families of
tragedy when they seek answers of their own.