aside New Bridge Collapses In Miami, FL Area; Fatalities Reported in March 2018

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Florida International University

While the republican President Donald Trump has been sucking up the news media oxygen, there have been major US stories not getting the press coverage at a level that would have occurred in the past. One is about a serial bomber wreaking havoc in the city of Austin, Texas during the month of March 2018 and the other is about the collapse of a newly constructed pedestrian bridge in the Miami, Florida area. Both events involve fatalities.

The Florida International University’s “instant bridge” collapse on the 15th of March 2018, follows the February 2018 Parkland, FL. High School mass shooting tragedy, where in both cases, peoples stepped forward to warn about an imminent danger but nothing was done.

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Two contractors involved in its construction have been cited in the past with numerous violations. As per a 3/17/18 FOX News report by Greg Norman, ” two firms responsible for building Florida International University’s “instant bridge,” which suddenly collapsed Thursday and left six people dead, are coming under increased scrutiny as details emerge of past engineering failures and inspection fines — including a recent accusation that one hired “unskilled” and “careless” workers.”  (See: Companies Behind FIU Bridge Collapse Had Safety Violations | Time)

Americans are sick of the argument by partisans that there should be less government when they know that some government is a necessity, but what they want in exchange for their tax dollars, is for government entities to work with an eye towards attaining a level of competence, professionalism and accountability. Frankly, these standards appear to be lacking in the State of Florida.

Here is the rest of the story… 

On March 17, 2018, Michael Laris and Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post penned the following report, “Engineer on Florida bridge project called state two days before deadly collapse to report crack, state says”

Excerpts:

“A lead engineer responsible for a pedestrian bridge that collapsed near Miami left a voice mail for a state transportation official warning of “some cracking” two days before the structure crashed, state officials said Friday night (3/16/18).”

“The engineer with the private contractor FIGG Bridge Engineers did not consider it a safety issue, he said in the call. The message was not retrieved until Friday (3/16/18) because the Florida Department of Transportation official to whom the voice mail was directed was out of the office on assignment, the state agency said. The message about the bridge being built to connect Florida International University with a neighboring city was left on a land line.”

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“Hey Tom, this is Denney Pate with FIGG bridge engineers. Calling to, uh, share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend,” the engineer said, according to a transcript of the call released by the Florida Department of Transportation.”

“Um, so, uh, we’ve taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that.”

“FIGG Bridge Engineers, which designed the span, promised in a statement Friday night it is “carefully examining the steps that our team has taken in the interest of our overarching concern for public safety.”

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“The company added — in an apparent reference to its engineer’s conclusion that safety was not an issue — that “the evaluation was based on the best available information at that time.”

“The company’s statement said employees are “heartbroken by the loss of life” and pledged: “We will pursue answers to find out what factors led to this tragic situation.”

“In its statement, the transportation agency pointed to another potential missed opportunity to identify problems.”

“On Thursday, shortly before the bridge collapsed, a consultant to the department met with members of the team responsible for the project. There was no mention of safety concerns regarding the structure at that meeting, the state said.”

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“The responsibility to identify and address life-safety issues and properly communicate them is the sole responsibility of the FIU design build team,” the state transportation agency said. “At no point during any of the communications above did FIGG or any member of the FIU design build team ever communicate a life-safety issue.”

The university later added a more detailed recollection of the Thursday meeting. It was convened by FIGG and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), which built the bridge, “to discuss a crack that appeared on the structure,” the university said.

“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,” the university said in a statement, adding that representatives of the school and the state Department of Transportation attended the session, which lasted two hours.”

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“The transportation agency said it released the voice-mail recording in the service of “full transparency.”

Asked what prompted the disclosure, an official pointed to a statement that accompanied the call transcript: “As FDOT assists in these investigations, we will continue our internal review and release all pertinent information as quickly as possible while ensuring its accuracy.”

Earlier Friday, authorities had made a grim announcement: The death toll in the bridge collapse had climbed to six — and more victims may be buried in the rubble.

“Our first priority is getting to those victims,” Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said Friday morning. But, he added, it is a slow and painstaking process to break the debris into smaller pieces for removal, and to reach the vehicles that were crushed when the 960-ton span collapsed Thursday afternoon.”

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“The foot bridge was still being installed when it came crashing down. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said suspension cables on the bridge “were being tightened when it collapsed.”

“Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said Friday that one of the victims in the accident was an FIU student. “We are truly saddened to hear that,” Lopez told reporters at a news conference.”

“An Ecuadorian official, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, announced on social media Friday that Alexa Duran, the 18-year-old daughter of an Ecuadorian father, had been killed in the collapse. A friend of Duran told the Miami Herald that the FIU student was the funniest person she knew, someone who always lit up any room.”

“Krista Schmidt, president of the Student Government Association at FIU, announced there would be a memorial Wednesday. “

No words can explain the sadness that I feel about the loss of Alexa Duran. All of the amazing things that people say about her really paints a picture of the beautiful soul that she has. To the sisters of @AXiD_FIU , please know that you have a huge support system. RIP💙💛

” Perez, the police director, said officials would not speculate about the likely number of fatalities until the recovery process is complete. Authorities want to bring closure to worried family members, he said, but can’t confirm identities of who is underneath the rubble. “We’re caught in a bad place right now,” he said.”

“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,” Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp said Friday. “The investigation is vital because we want to ensure that this type of accident doesn’t happen again locally, or anywhere in this country.”

“The National Transportation Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Highway Administration are investigating, as are homicide detectives with the county police department. A team of county prosecutors arrived at the scene Friday, as well. “

For entire report see: Florida International bridge collapse: At least 6 dead,

12 comments

  1. Prayers going out to the families, sadly we lost the art of building reliable infrastructure b/c of corner cutting and using the cheapest possible materials from China! In the 20s America was at the forefront of erecting modern cities all over the world. We had engineers design and build world’s tallest skyscrapers, longest bridges, best roads. Sadly those days are behind us and we are left with an aging crumbling infrastructure that we have no money to fix! And new projects like this bridge and brand new sections of Amtrack keep derailing!

    We really need to wake up or use proper engineers from Russia and China. They have been so productive building an upgrading their systems, they’ve left us behind years ago! Just Sad…..

    • Dear !EarthUnited,

      While I admire Russia and China for improvising/ modernizing their infrastructure, the truth is that we will rarely read/ hear about its construction failures because of government control over their media outlets.

      See Crustyolemoyhman’s comment.

      Still, the US government resisting regulations and standards is a problem. This allows for infrastructure for public use to be compromised.There has to be that middle ground between sensible standards and over-regulation. No standards and NO Regulations are not the the optimum solutions.

      Hugs, Gronda

  2. Dear Earthy,

    Might I suggest the problem is not due to engineering ability in this country, but rather from greed on the part of large construction companies who skimp on material and cut cost by using unskilled labor in their projects. In years past most construction of large projects was done by highly skilled union labor, as the GOP went to war against those people because they were making an honest wage and forced (encouraged?) the use of cheap labor problem came about. You mention China, as leaving us behind, might I suggest that you actually research that claim and then you will realize that they actually are having a much larger problem than this nation is with building quality infrastructure projects. I might add this, if you want quality you need to be prepared to pay for it, if you want cheap you will get cheap, but there is no such thing as cheap and quality in the same product…

    This is just one of many building and bridge collapses that have occurred in China in recent history.

    • Crusty, you are absolutely correct, I should have qualified my blanket statement about Chinese and Russian construction. There has been a crackdown on fly-by-night construction companies which fail to deliver what they promised. The lure of quick and easy money ripping off investors and buyers of cheap real estate in those countries had led to some shoddy and dangerous construction.

      Yet the massive scale of public works is something to behold, developing infrastructure like new roads, modern skyscrapers in cities all over the country, bullet trains and incredible solar/ wind projects.

      https://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/data/examples-of-high-tech-innovation-in-china-3641347/

      Is any project perfect, absolutely not. Yet why does China and Russia have tons of money and resources to build their future, yet the US who can print and manipulate the dollar (as world’s reserve currency) continuously run budget deficits, has $20 trillion in national debt, and cannot maintain it’s crumbling infrastructure?

      • You ask: “”Yet why does China and Russia have tons of money and resources to build their future, yet the US who can print and manipulate the dollar (as world’s reserve currency) continuously run budget deficits, has $20 trillion in national debt, and cannot maintain it’s crumbling infrastructure?””

        I might suggest you take a quick look at their tax rates in comparison to ours. You also must consider the cost of labor and understand that the government in China in most cases owns the sources of materials needed for construction, which is a definite advantage. When you control the whole enchilada, you not only control the cost you control the money available to make the improvements.. Unlike our country who seems to only want to control those things that profit them directly..

        This very problem is escalated by our recently “alleged” tax cuts that will farther rape the infrastructure in this nation. Our current congress and administration simply do not care about the needs of the nation and only care about their own pockets.. A very sad state of affairs for those of us that are dependent on road, water, electricity and other needed items.

        • @Crusty

          Thanks for the additional info, it does explain alot about how different economies work. Centrally planned state organized project also operate on economy of scale, at the expense of profitability and individual customization.

          Your last statement sums up our plight in the US very well. It really irks me that an autocratic dictator like Putin actually puts his nation first, when it comes to defense, social welfare, economic and infrastructure development, science and technology, he does sink a ton of state money in improving quality of life for his ppl. Sadly we cannot say the same with this administration. We have a con man who stole the office by promising to uplift the average joe, yet does the very opposite and caters to the elite class that he supposedly campaigned against. Trump is shoring up our military, but not much of anything else.

          BTW, engineering graduates from our universities are appalling, standards are very low compared to foreign students, who make up the majority of high achieving graduates in the states. Then they take back that knowledge to their own country… sad indeed.

    • Dear Crustyolemothman,

      The Dems need to do more to support Unions. I am convinced that the republicans push for “school choice” was not to improve the lot of children but to bust school unions.

      Hugs, Gronda

  3. Gronda, I am not an engineer, but cracking in a new bridge has to be a red flag. Cracks in an old bridge are more expected due to settling, but a new one? Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      A crack right at the start spells construction failure. Where was the county inspector? Florida is a republican led state that shuns standards and regulations for businesses.

      Governor Scott has some explaining to do as to how two heavily cited companies for construction infractions were allowed to be in business in Florida.

      Hugs, Gronda

      • Gronda, this is more than politics. It is people scared to stick their neck out. In my view, that engineer should have found someone and said there is cracking. This gives me pause. We need to shut down traffic and check it out to be safe. Leaving a voicemail was not the best course to register concern.

        I saw this too often in business. Rather than stick your neck out, people remain silent. It is frustrating when it happens. I have seen decisions made that were dumb the day they were announced. Building a fast set up bridge is a problem waiting to happen. Quality takes time. Keith

    • That is absolutely right! As I said, you can have cheap or you can have quality, but there is no such thing as cheap quality!

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