A pedestrian bridge under construction collapsed at Florida International University in Miami on Thursday afternoon, causing “mass casualties,” according to police.
Mayor Francis Suarez told reporters that at least one person was killed and six were taken to the hospital.
The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge spans an eight-lane highway and collapsed onto eight vehicles, according to an eyewitness and television footage. People were reportedly trapped underneath in cars. First responders rushed directly to the pile of crushed concrete and twisted steel, including medical personnel from the nearby hospital.
Reporters on the scene said police moved the media farther and farther away from the bridge “just in case the rest falls down.”
“We saw the bridge collapse and it was just surreal at that moment,” one witness, Damany Reed, told CBS News. “It was very scary.”
The span was lowered into place on Saturday but not scheduled to open until early 2019, according to The Miami Herald.
The bridge was erected using “Accelerated Bridge Construction” (ABC), meaning components were constructed adjacent to the roadway in order to reduce building time. The rapid installation happened “in a single morning” after “months of preparation,” according to the Herald.
The method “reduces potential risks to workers, commuters, and pedestrians and minimizes traffic interruptions,” according to FIU News.
THE FIU BRIDGE COLLAPSED OH MY GOD pic.twitter.com/JO7jfx5AoN
— Gabriela Collazo (@GabrielaRose12) March 15, 2018
The 174-foot, 950-ton span and was meant to “provide students a safe route over the perilous roadway for the first time,” according to the Herald. Students and teachers had requested it be built after an FIU undergraduate, Alexis Dale, was fatally hit by a car in August while crossing highway.
Earlier this week, FIU President Mark Rosenberg said, “FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully.”
— Monique O. Madan (@MoniqueOMadan) March 15, 2018
“I am so grateful… for these first responders that are out there risking life and limb, literally in order to try to get folks out of this situation, who may still be trapped under the tons and tons of concrete,” Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart told CBS.
The bridge was a project of MCM Construction and FIGG Bridge Design—the firm behind the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation at a tune of $14.2 million, according to the Herald.
“This project is an outstanding example of the ABC method,” Atorod Azizinamini, an FIU professor who is reportedly an expert in ABC, told FIU News. “Building the major element of the bridge—its main span superstructure—outside of the traveled way and away from busy Eighth Street is a milestone.”
MCM released a statement on Thursday afternoon offering “thoughts and prayers.”
“We are devastated and doing everything we can to assist,” it said. “We expect a full investigation will follow; we will cooperate in any way.”
FIGG Engineering added, “In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”