The first lawsuit has been filed over a bridge that collapsed at Florida International University in March. The incident killed six people and injured an additional nine. According to The Miami Herald, victims of the bridge collapse included workers, a student, and local business owners.
Florida International University was building a pedestrian bridge to provide a safe route across a busy, seven-lane street for students from the campus to a high-rise apartment building, according to USA Today. The university has expanded quickly since it was founded in 1965 and attempted to make what was a predominantly commuter school feel more like a traditional campus. The bridge was designed to connect the University to the City of Sweetwater. It was scheduled to open early next year.
Marquise Rashaad Hepburn is the first victim to file a lawsuit over the bridge collapse. He was riding his bicycle under the bridge when it fell. A car veered out of the way of the crumbling concrete and hit Hepburn. He has filed a suit against FIGG Bridge Engineers, the company that designed the bridge, Munilla Construction Management and several other corporations involved in the building project.
Additional lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming weeks. The Miami Herald reported that the families of Alberto Arias and Osvaldo González intend to file a lawsuit once they are buried. Arias and González died after being crushed by nearly 1,000 tons of steel and concrete that fell on their truck while driving under the bridge. The attorney for the Arias and González families noted that she would look into why the road was not closed while a stress test of the bridge was conducted.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the 950 ton partially constructed bridge to fall. The police department is also conducting an investigation to see if there was any foul play.
A few days prior to the collapse, cracks in the concrete of the bridge were spotted. The lead engineer reported the cracks to a state official, but claimed that there was not cause for safety concern and that the cracks “did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.” Construction continued despite the cracks. The transportation department claimed that the state official did not hear the message until the day after the bridge collapsed.
The bridge was built using Accelerated Bridge Construction methods, which are being studied at Florida International University. The method seeks to reduce risks to workers while minimizing traffic interruptions.
CBS News reported that construction of the bridge was behind schedule and over budget in part due to a design change that moved the placement of one of the bridge’s support towers. Video footage revealed that the cracks appeared on the same side of the bridge where the redesign occurred. The design change came as a result of the Florida Department of Transportation’s request that the tower be moved to allow for future road expansion.