When a bridge collapses, it’s most often assumed it was because of an earthquake, flood or because the bridge was old and dilapidated. That was not the case when a brand new pedestrian bridge on the Florida International University campus suddenly collapsed on the afternoon of March 15. Tragically, it has claimed the lives of 6 people, and many more have been transported to hospitals for their injuries. Rescue crews worked around the clock to find and rescue people trapped underneath the rubble.
The newly constructed bridge stretched across Southwest 8th Street, a busy seven-lane road. Eight vehicles were smashed by the fallen bridge and have been trapped.
The bridge was meant to facilitate safe transportation for pedestrians from FIU campus to the city of Sweetwater. To be sure, students and faculty have been wanting the bridge for many years so they would not have to cross Southwest 8th Street. Weighing 950 tons and measuring 174 feet long, the bridge was lifted from it’s supports and “swung” into place. The bridge was built using a method called accelerated bridge construction. It was built to withstand a category 5 hurricane and last 100 years. Instead, the bridge, which was in place Monday, lasted just three days.
Possible Legal Implications
Although the investigation is ongoing, it is anticipated that wrongful death claims will be filed against the liable parties if something was done wrong. The two companies responsible for constructing the bridge—Munilla Construction Management and FIGG Bridge Group—have both been accused of violating safety laws in the past. In fact, an incident involving Munilla Construction Management happened just 11 days ago.
Barnhart Crane & Rigging was the company in charge of moving the bridge. It did not, however, design the bridge. The company is allegedly cooperating with investigators and we will know more about why the bridge collapsed in the coming days.
Architects and engineers do not actively build bridges, but they are responsible for their design and ensuring that they are safe for users. If it is determined that there was a flaw in the bridge’s design, then they can be held liable.
Inspectors can also be held liable. Inspectors assess buildings and structures before they can be used or opened to the public. If an inspector signed off on the bridge even though it was defective or incomplete, he or she could be held liable.
Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those killed in this horrific, unexpected accident. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a bridge collapse incident, you may be entitled to compensation. To schedule a complimentary consultation with a Miami wrongful death attorney, give us a call at (305) 371-2692 or contact us online.