After days of digging through 950 tons of steel and concrete, authorities say the remains of all six victims of the pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida have been recovered.
Rescuers have worked day and night to extract the victims and mangled cars after the pedestrian bridge crumbled Thursday west of downtown Miami.
“I believe that is the final count,” Miami-Dade County Police Director Juan Perez said. “This ends with a tragedy of six. … We are pretty confident that no one is left.”
For the first time since the bridge collapsed, rescuers took a break Saturday to pay tribute to the people killed.
“We asked them to pause so we could pray over every victim,” Perez said.
A police motorcade escorted the remains of five victims to the medical examiner’s office. A sixth person died at the hospital.
Miami-Dade police have identified five of the people killed in the collapse of the bridge, which was meant to connect the campus of Florida International University with a neighborhood that’s home to 4,000 of its students. The bodies of Rolando Fraga Hernandez; Oswald Gonzalez, 57; and Alberto Arias, 53, were pulled from the rubble on Saturday, authorities said. Navarro Brown was taken to a hospital earlier and died there.
Florida International student Alexa Duran was also identified by police. Rescuers extracted the 18-year-old from a gray Toyota 4Runner. Duran was driving under the bridge Thursday when it came crashing down. A friend traveling with Duran tried to pull her out.
“My little girl was trapped in the car and couldn’t get out,” her father, Orlando Duran, told El Nuevo Herald, a sister newspaper to The Miami Herald.
Alexa Duran’s sister, Dina, posted a tribute on Instagram. “Rest In Peace my sweet little sister. Words cannot describe how heavy my heart is. I would give anything to take your place and all of your pain,” she said.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation will continue for several months. It will “pinpoint where was the mistake and/or the failure that led to this catastrophic event,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said.
“And that is something that the community needs, the families need, the country needs to make sure it never happens again,” Rubio told reporters.
The bridge was supposed to enhance safety and keep pedestrians safe from traffic on busy Southwest Eighth Street, where a vehicle fatally struck an FIU student in August. It was scheduled to open for foot traffic next year.
The university used Accelerated Bridge Construction technology to build the bridge. Unlike traditional methods of construction, it streamlines the building process so that bridge projects can be completed quicker and more cost effectively.
Rubio said the technology was faster but not “in the sense of cutting corners.”
FlU President Mark B. Rosenberg said the university is fully cooperating with authorities investigating the collapse.
“Even as we grieve, we all have an interest in getting to the bottom of what happened,” he said in a statement.
The university will host a moment of silence at 1:47 p.m. when classes resume Monday.
“It will take time for our community to heal,” Rosenberg said.
The university’s Student Government Association will hold a vigil for the victims Wednesday morning at a campus facility.
Crews discussed bridge’s cracks
Engineers had discussed the structural integrity of the span and deemed it safe just a few hours before it collapsed.
“The FIGG engineer of record delivered a technical presentation regarding the crack and concluded that there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” Florida International University officials said Saturday in a statement.
Representatives from FIU, the Florida Department of Transportation, Munilla Construction Management and FIGG Bridge Engineers, attended the two-hour meeting Thursday morning. FIGG designed the bridge.
Before that meeting, an engineer for FIGG had called a FDOT employee to discuss the cracking, but his call went unanswered.
“We’ve taken a look at it and obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done,” W. Denney Pate said in a voicemail that was unheard until Friday.
Robert Accetta of the National Transportation Safety Board said a crack in the bridge “does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.”