Engineer of Florida Bridge reported crack days before collapse

Jeffrey Greenberg  UIG via Getty Images FILE

The walkway, which connects Florida International University to a student housing area, went up less than a week ago but was not yet operational when it collapsed.

Miami Herald reports that FIGG Bridge Group employee, Denney Pate, called the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on Tuesday and left a voicemail mentioning cracks at one end of the bridge, but dismissed any safety issue. "At no point during any of the communications above did FIGG or any member of the FIU design-build team ever communicate a life-safety issue", FDOT said in a statement Friday. Authorities are slowly removing the debris, looking for more victims.

The university hired FIGG Bridge engineers to design the bridge and Munilla Construction Management to build it. Barnhart Crane and Rigging was contracted to move the bridge into place last weekend.

The allegations were made in a lawsuit that was later settled.

Rescuers worked through the night to try to free survivors from the rubble, and state and federal investigators were at the scene seeking to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Chelsea Brownfield, posted on Instagram that she was still waiting to hear whether her husband, Brandon Brownfield, was killed in the bridge collapse. During construction in Chesapeake, a 90-ton segment fell onto railroad tracks below. After that tragedy, FIGG was selected to design the replacement bridge that's now in use. FIGG claimed Lane was in charge of installing the segment.

Ten people were taken to hospital after the bridge collapse, Zabaleta said.

Denney Pate with the FIGG Bridge Group said in the voicemail that the cracks were seen on the north end of the bridge.

Search and rescue teams are carefully unearthing bodies and vehicles from the under the concrete bridge that collapsed suddenly in Miami on Thursday afternoon.

It was driven into its perpendicular position across the road by a rig in only six hours on Saturday, according to a statement released by the university.

"Structures are typically created to have a lot of redundances so they're not supposed to fail after one element or one particular thing goes wrong with it", said Dr. Mo Ehsani, UA engineering professor and president of QuakeWrap.

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In 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, killing 13 people and injuring 145. After that tragedy, FIGG was selected to design the replacement bridge that's now in use.

The bridge was due to be finished in January 2019 and would have been used by thousands of students from the adjacent Florida International University.

"It's going to be a long process" to remove the remaining vehicles, Perez said, "because (of) the. weight and size of the structure that is laying on top of these vehicles". No identities of those killed have been released.

News reports saying that engineers may have been conducting a stress test on the bridge that may have led to its collapse could not be confirmed, Perez and other Miami officials told reporters.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is involved in the investigation of the crash, a crack is not indicative of a fatal flaw with a bridge.

The DOT said today that it had not been notified of any stress test. Marco Rubio tweeted: "The cables that suspend the #Miami bridge had loosened & the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened".

"Right now we're just chipping away", said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez.

The bridge section that collapsed was created to hold its own weight until the entire span is assembled into place, experts told NBC News.

As Florida authorities work to identify the people who died in Thursday's catastrophic bridge collapse, state and federal investigators will begin the task of figuring out how and why the five-day-old span failed.

An attempt to reach Florida International University spokeswoman Maydel Santana Bravo was not immediately successful.

Barbie Brewer, a victim advocate for the Miami-Dade Police Department, told WPLG that most families are hopeful.

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