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Miami pedestrian bridge collapses, killing several, officials say

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A pedestrian walkway in Miami collapsed on Thursday, killing several people.

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the fatalities after multiple vehicles were crushed by the span near Florida International University’s campus.

According to Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue, there were people on the bridge and several cars underneath it.

Related: ‘No, it can’t be!’ Witnesses describe horror of Florida bridge collapse

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said they found eight vehicles trapped under the bridge after they got a call alerting the fire department of the incident. He noted that authorities planned to continue search and rescue throughout the evening.

“We could only see eight [vehicles] from the exterior of the bridge,” Downey said, adding that he did not know how many total cars might be affected. “We are creating holes just so that we can physically see [if there are others].”

Urban search and rescue teams were on the scene with live search dogs, heavy equipment and four cranes, officials said.

Ten patients were brought to the Kendall Regional Medical Center after the accident, the hospital said: Two were in critical condition and eight suffered minor injuries that ranged from bruises to broken bones.

The walkway weighed 950 tons and was 174 feet long, according to FIU.

The bridge was scheduled to open early next year and designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. Built across the seven-lane Tamiami Trail, the planned walkway connected the FIU campus to the town of Sweetwater where the university estimates some 4,000 students live.

“We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge,” the university said in a statement. “At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information.”

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department said they were working to secure the structure while searching for victims.

“I was three seconds away from being under the bridge, but I looked forward. All of a sudden I saw the bridge collapse, and it started from the left side of the bridge and it really shocked me,” said Susie Bermudez.

Image: FIU bridge collapse

Emergency personnel respond to a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University Florida International on March 15, 2018 in Miami, Florida.Roberto Koltun / The Miami Herald via AP

“There’s probably like seven or eight cars under the bridge so it was very shocking to me, and I’m very grateful to be alive,” she added.

Jose Mejia, who lives in Sweetwater, told MSNBC that he heard a loud bang and then rushed to the scene with police where he saw numerous cars trapped under the bridge.

“There was a young gentleman in a red Honda, and unfortunately there was nothing I could do, but he stuck his hand out and, at that point he passed away, he expired,” Mejia said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he had spoken to Miami-Dade County Police Chief Juan Perez about the collapse and would remain “in constant communication with law enforcement throughout the day.”

Scott’s press office said that he would be traveling to FIU Thursday evening to be briefed on further details.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has taught at FIU as an adjunct professor, called it a “horrifying tragedy” and said he had spoken to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and also planned to travel to the university.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that President Donald Trump was aware of the bridge collapse and would provide government resources as needed.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that it would send a 15-person team to investigate the collapse.

The bridge was lifted off its temporary support and placed in its permanent position on Saturday.

The $11.4 million bridge was meant to connect the school to the city of Sweetwater. It is part of a $124 million expansion of the campus.

It was built and designed by Munilla Construction Management in partnership with FIGG Bridge Engineers, the college said.

In a statement posted on Twitter, MCM said they would “conduct a full investigations to determine exactly went wrong.”

FIGG Bridge Engineers said they were stunned by the “tragic collapse” and would cooperate with the authorities as they investigated the matter.

“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” the company said in a statement. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”

The homicide bureau will take the lead in investigating the collapse and the state attorney will also work the case, said Perez, the police chief.

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