Miami — Florida officials said on Thursday that four people have been found dead in the rubble of a collapsed South Florida pedestrian bridge where the frantic search for any survivors continued past nightfall.
Fire Chief Dave Downey said at an evening news briefing that four deceased people were found amid the chaotic scene of concrete rubble and crumpled vehicles.
He said nine victims were removed “early on” and taken to hospitals but didn’t elaborate on their conditions.
He said the “search and rescue mode” — deploying trained canines, search cameras and sensitive listening devices — was continuing into the night.
Gov. Rick Scott also spoke to reporters, saying “everybody is working hard to make sure we rescue anyone who can be rescued”.
The Florida governor added that an exhaustive investigation now beginning will get to the bottom of “why this happened and what happened” and vowed that anyone who did anything wrong would be held accountable.
Miami-Dade police director Juan Perez praised the actions of first responders during a news conference but acknowledged the likelihood of finding more victims under the rubble was growing more difficult with the passage of time.
“We know that there’s going to be a negative outcome at the end of the day,” Perez said.
The bridge was under construction and collapsed onto a busy Miami highway on Thursday, crushing at least eight vehicles under massive slabs of concrete and steel. One side of the bridge led to Florida International University, a school west of the city’s downtown.
Search-and-rescue crews drilled holes into the debris and used their highly trained dogs to look for survivors. They had to work carefully because part of the structure was still unsafe. At least 10 people were taken to hospitals. The number of fatalities was not immediately known.
The 950-ton (860-metric ton) bridge had been assembled by the side of the highway and moved into place on Saturday to great fanfare. The span stretched almost 200 feet (60 meters) to connect Florida International University with the city of Sweetwater. It was expected to open to foot traffic next year.
#DidYouKnow the new pedestrian bridge that will connect our FIU and the @CitySweetwater is the first in the world to be constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete? #WorldsAhead pic.twitter.com/lQVJh09Pv2
— FIU News (@FIUnews) March 10, 2018
“This bridge was about goodness, not sadness,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. “Now we’re feeling immense sadness, uncontrollable sadness. And our hearts go out to all those affected, their friends and their families. We’re committed to assist in all efforts necessary, and our hope is that this sadness can galvanise the entire community to stay the course, a course of goodness, of hope, of opportunity.”
Jacob Miller, a senior at FIU, was visiting a friend in a dorm when he heard sirens and horns honking. He went to a balcony and could see rubble coming down.
“I saw there were multiple cars crushed under the bridge. It was just terrible. I saw some people stopping their cars, trying to get out, trying to assess the situation to see if there is anything they could do to help,” he said.