| 19.03,18. 01:08 AM |
Florida officials met hours before bridge collapse, concluded crack not a safety concern
Photo: An engineer left a voicemail about a crack in the pedestrian bridge before it collapsed. (AP: DroneBase)
Engineers, state and university officials met hours before a new pedestrian bridge collapsed in southern Florida, killing six people, but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern, Florida International University said on Saturday.
The meeting on Thursday involved FIGG, which is the private contractor for the overall bridge design, the school, Florida Department of Transportation officials and Munilla Construction Management, which installed the $18.4 million bridge.
A FIGG engineer "concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge," the university said in a statement.
About three hours after the meeting ended, the 950-ton bridge collapsed, crushing vehicles stopped at a traffic light on the eight-lane roadway below.
News of the meeting between engineers and officials followed a revelation on Friday that the engineer overseeing the bridge, which linked the university campus with the city of Sweetwater, had called a state official two days before the collapse to report cracks.
Six people died, including five whose bodies were recovered on Saturday as workers pulled out vehicles from the rubble, officials said.
One of the victims was Alexa Duran, who was studying political science at Florida International University.
Authorities have not released Duran's name, but her family has said she died.
Her uncle, Joe Smitha, slammed authorities for their "complete incompetence" and "colossal failure" in allowing people to drive beneath the unfinished concrete span.
"Why they had to build this monstrosity in the first place to get children across the street?" Mr Smitha said.
"Then they decided to stress test this bridge while traffic was running underneath it?"
Police had feared the death toll could rise above six.
But authorities found what they believe to be the last body on Saturday, Miami-Dade Police Department director Juan Perez told a news conference.
Florida International University plans to hold a moment of silence on Monday for the six victims.
University President Mark B Rosenberg said the silence will be held at 1:47pm, the same time the bridge collapsed on Thursday.
Mr Rosenberg said it was a first step in healing the community.
Three of the victims found on Saturday were identified by police as Rolando Fraga Hernandez, Oswald Gonzalez and Alberto Arias.
Another victim, who died in a hospital after the collapse, was identified by police as Navarro Brown.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the reasons for the bridge's collapse.