Cracks Found in Bridge Hours Before Deadly Collapse Dismissed by Officials, per NTSB

Liz Carey

Sweetwater, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Cracks found on the Florida International University bridge that collapsed in March killing six, were known to contractors and the Florida Department of Transportation days before.

On March 15, the pedestrian bridge collapsed onto the roadway below it, killing five motorists and one construction worker, and injuring dozens others, including other workers on the bridge. As previously reported on WorkersCompensation.com, one bridge worker said he heard cracking sounds just prior to the bridge collapsing onto the live freeway below it.

Regulators and construction supervisors met to discuss the cracks three hours before the collapse, but dismissed them as not compromising “the structural integrity of the bridge,” a recently released preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.

Those cracks will be the focus of the board’s investigation, it said. In photographs released with the report, it showed cracks at the north end of the bridge where tensioning work was being done when the bridge collapsed.

“The NTSB is evaluating the emergence of cracks in the region of diagonal members 2 (south end of the bridge) and 11 (north end of the bridge), and the propagation of cracks in the region of diagonal member 11,” the report said.

The board said it was also evaluating the bridge’s design, construction process and construction materials. “All aspects” of the bridge’s collapse remain under investigation, it said.

The bridge was praised by FIU officials for its accelerated construction method that was designed to minimize disruptions to traffic, while reducing risks to pedestrians and workers.

But the bridge was behind schedule and was millions of dollars over-budget, due in part to a change in the bridge’s design and the placement of one of the bridge’s supports, when it fell. The bridge had been swung into place just five days before the collapse. Built by MCM Construction and FIGG Engineering-Bridge Group, the bridge was considered an engineering feat.

Navarro Brown, 37, a construction worker with Structural Technologies VSL, died when the bridge collapsed while he and other Structural Technologies employees were working on “providing installation support for our products,” a Structural Technologies spokesman said.

A GoFundMe account for Brown, to pay for funeral expenses and replace income his family lost with his death, raised $8,900, of the $50,000 the family said they needed.

Richie Humble, a student at FIU and one of the collapse’s survivors, has filed a negligence lawsuit against several of the companies involved in the bridge’s construction, as have several other of the injured and families of the victims.

Humble said he was in a car with his friend, Alexa Dugan, when the bridge fell on top of them. His friend, he said, disappeared under the rubble. Humble said since the incident he has flashbacks and anxiety attacks.

His attorney, Stuart Grossman, blames engineers, school officials and the government.

“The experiment failed, people are dead and Richie is not lucky,” Grossman told the Associated Press. “You are not lucky to have gone through something like this. He is fortunate to survive. But this isn’t winning the lottery.”

Companies have not commented on the lawsuit. FIGG Engineering representatives said in an interview with WorkersCompensation.com that they had no comment outside of their previous statements to the press in March.