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Overnight, rescue efforts turned into search and recover efforts as emergency responders determined no additional survivors would be found under the collapsed bridge near FIU's Modesto Maidique Campus. (Photo credit: Gabriel Poblete)
Overnight, rescue efforts turned into search and recover efforts as emergency responders determined no additional survivors would be found under the collapsed bridge near FIU's Modesto Maidique Campus. (Photo creditChristian Perez

FIU bridge collapse: Six dead, 10 injured, possible criminal charges pending

The fatality count from the Thursday bridge collapse near Florida International University’s Modesto A. Maidique campus rose overnight from four to six people, and criminal charges may be pending after an investigation, according to police.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle was scheduled to visit the scene later Friday.

A team of 15 National Transportation Safety Board representatives are conducting a transportation accident investigation to determine the cause of the collapse, according to NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwolt. Fire Rescue workers and homicide detectives are also on the scene.

Fire Rescue Chief Dave Downey confirmed one FIU student was killed. The student was identified as 18-year-old Alexa Duran by el Nuevo Herald on Friday afternoon after her father, Orlando Duran, contacted the paper.

By Maria Gil 
South Florida News Service 
@SFNS_News • Facebook • Instagram

Ten survivors escaped the wreckage with varying injuries and were transported to Kendall Regional Medical Center, authorities said. Patients ranged in age from 20 to 50 and suffered level-one trauma injuries, Kendall Regional Director Mark McKenney told ABC News.

“One patient arrived in a coma with severe extremity injuries,” he told a reporter Thursday night. Eight other patients were admitted with less serious injuries, including broken bones and abrasions.

Students and residents watched from a safe distance as recovery teams searched through the rubble. (Photo credit: Gabriel Poblete)

Students and residents watched from a safe distance as recovery teams searched through the rubble. (Photo credit: Gabriel Poblete)

Downey said rescuers will remain on the scene until every victim is recovered.

Rescuers used flashlights to search through the rubble overnight. By Friday morning, officials said they no longer believed there were remaining survivors.

“We don’t anticipate we will find anybody alive in there,” Officer Lee Cowart, Miami-Dade Police Department spokesperson, told the Miami Herald.

At 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, the 174-foot, 950-ton bridge fell across Southwest Eighth Street, trapping at least eight vehicles underneath.

“It sounded like a thunder,” said Lisbel Marrero, an FIU student who lives nearby.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday that the bridge, which would have connected the City of Sweetwater to FIU’s MMC campus, underwent a stress test earlier that morning; however, neither Perez nor Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp could confirm such a test was done.

“Our primary focus is to remove all of the cars and all of the victims in a dignified manner and not compromise the investigation in the process,” Kemp said during a 10 a.m. press conference Friday.

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho said Southwest Eighth Street will remain closed indefinitely.

The $9.3-million bridge was designed by Munilla Construction Management in partnership with FIGG Bridge Engineers, according to FIU News. Both companies were cited numerous times in the past five years for workplace safety violations by the OSHA.

On March 5, Munilla was accused in Miami-Dade Civil Court of being responsible for the critical injury of TSA employee Jose Perez, who fell 40 feet from a bridge built by the company at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“They built a makeshift bridge in the area where all the employees work, and it was poorly done,” Tesha Allison, Perez’s attorney, told Miami New Times. “He fell and hurt himself really badly. He had multiple broken bones and damage to his spine. They did shoddy work.”

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho said Southwest Eighth Street will remain closed indefinitely. (Photo credit: Gabriel Poblete)

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho said Southwest Eighth Street will remain closed indefinitely. (Photo credit: Gabriel Poblete)

In June 2012, a bridge span assembled by FIGG in Virginia broke, injuring four workers on the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, according to Chesapeake fire officials. The Virginia Department of Labor ultimately fined FIGG $28,000, citing several safety rule violations.

Munilla, led by FIU School of Business Administration alum Jorge Munilla, built an expansion to the school’s football stadium in 2012. The company has worked on several major government contracts in South Florida, Texas and Panama and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a report by The Real Deal, which found ties between the company and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted late Thursday that engineers were tightening cables on the bridge just before it collapsed. He and FIU President Mark Rosenberg rode the same plane from Washington, D.C., to Miami and spent hours at the scene.

Rubio visited the injured at the hospital Friday, according to the Miami Herald.

Federal safety officials ask that witnesses of the collapse contact witness@ntsb.gov.

Lead reporting by Maria Gil, with contributions by Jesse Schecker and Gabriel Poblete. 

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