‘No, it can’t be!’ Witnesses describe horror of Florida bridge collapse

Witnesses said it sounded like a bang or an explosion.

A 950-ton pedestrian walkway near a Florida university collapsed on a sunny Thursday afternoon, crushing cars and killing several people, according to officials.

«All of the sudden you hear a loud bang,» Jose Mejia, who was having coffee with city officials and police when the bridge near Florida International University’s campus gave way, told MSNBC.

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Witness: Pedestrian bridge collapse is 'very tragic'
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«And I looked to one of the command staff and said, ‘Oh my God!’ then they looked at me and they said ‘the bridge’ — I say, ‘no, it can’t be!’” Mejia said. “And one of them runs to grab their radio and sure enough, it’s the bridge. And at that point we all ran and it was just a horrible scene.»

At least 20 cars were crushed, he said, although police only said that multiple vehicles were struck. Authorities confirmed several fatalities.

«There was a young gentleman in a red Honda, and unfortunately there was nothing I could do, but he stuck his hand out and, at that point he, he passed away, he expired,» Mejia said.


Emergency response workers at a newly installed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that collapsed on March 15, 2018. Miguel Gutierrez / AFP — Getty Images

Another witness described the sound of the collapse as like «an explosion.»

«It was right behind us, and you know, it could have been us under that bridge,” the shaken man told MSNBC. «It’s something that they’re building, and it’s not built yet. Why would you continue building something when there’s traffic moving under you?»

The bridge was scheduled to open early next year and was designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. The bridge was built across the seven-lane Tamiami Trail, connecting the FIU campus to the town of Sweetwater, where the university estimates some 4,000 students live.

Brandon Lee, a student at FIU told MSNBC that was on the phone with his father when «suddenly I saw the whole ground shake.» He said his roommate came in and said «the bridge just collapsed.» The walkway to get to the pedestrian bridge was not in place, the student said.

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Mario Valdez told NBC Miami that he was searching for a friend who may have been injured in the Thursday afternoon accident, and did not know if the 28-year-old student at FIU was OK.

«His sister called me, frantic, saying that he was injured,» Valdez told NBC Miami. «This guy, I consider him a brother. We grew up together. And it’s just so tragic.»

The man’s sister told Valdez his friend was crossing SW 8th Street to visit people on the other side when the bridge fell, according to the station.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate the collapse.

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