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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – It was a moment of celebration this past Saturday for Florida International University when the pedestrian bridge was put in place.
“This is a dream come true for our university,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg said that day.
The design of the bridge is supposed to last 100 years and be able to withstand a category five hurricane.
Jorge Munilla, president of Munilla Construction Management celebrated the bridge saying, “We build this facility off site on the FIU campus. On Friday morning we closed 8th Street and there was no bridge. And on Monday morning the bridge will be in place.”
At 174-feet long and 950 tons, the main span of the bridge was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across eight lanes of highway.
It was the largest pedestrian bridge to be moved this way in U.S. history.
On Thursday the bride was undergoing a stress test.
“I’m satisfied that the testing that was occurring was consistent with best practice,” Rosenberg said Thursday.
The Florida Department of Transportation says an independent, secondary design check was required.
It was FIU’s responsibility to select the firm to conduct the review.
FDOT says the firm the university chose was not FDOT pre-qualified for this service which was a requirement under its agreement with the state.
Governor Rick Scott said there will be a very transparent investigation both at the local, federal and state level and if anyone has done anything wrong, they will be held accountable.
Although it is too soon to tell what caused the collapse, CBS4 News has learned two of firms that built the bridge have been accused of unsafe practices.
“There is a process of due diligence that takes place,” Rosenberg said. “All of the contractors are fully certified by the state and this has been one of the most intensely managed processes that is around because of the federal support for it.”
Munilla Construction Management partnered with the Figg Bridge Group for the project.
Just ten days ago, Munilla Construction Management was sued in Miami-Dade civil court by a TSA employee hurt at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
The employee’s lawyer alleges a makeshift bridge MCM built for workers to use while the company does construction the airport broke under his weight.
The engineering company, FIGG Bridge Group was sued in 2003 by the Delaware Department of Transportation over alleged faulty engineering.
The suit was settled for more than $5 million.
In 2012, a 90-ton portion of a bridge the company was assembling in Virginia fell apart while under construction.
The Virginia Pilot reports four workers were hurt and that state regulators fined FIGG $28,000 for safety violations, saying it was “pure luck no one was killed.”
Figg Bridge Group issued a statement saying in part, “In our 40-year history, nothing like this has every happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of the life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy…”
MCM also issued a statement saying in part, “MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist.”
Both companies have said that they are cooperating with authorities and investigators.
Senator Marco Rubio tweeted late Thursday that some cables had come loose and workers were attempting to tighten them when the bridge came down.
A review of Occupational Safety Health Administration records shows that MCM has been fined for 11 safety violations in the past five years. The fines totaling more than $50,000 arose from complaints about unsafe trenches, cement dust and other problems at its Florida work sites.
Workers at the scene report that Thursday the bridge was reportedly undergoing some sort of stress test.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who spoke at a ceremony celebrating the bridge’s construction over the weekend, told CBS4 there were going to be a lot of questions that have to be answered about what happened.
“Right now the most important thing is going to be to save people who are hopefully still alive,” he said.
Senator Bill Nelson says the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is “launching and leading an investigation into the bridge collapse.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was monitoring the situation and would offer whatever support was needed.
Florida International University is the second-largest university in the state, with 55,000 students. Most of its students live off-campus. The bridge, which just went up on Saturday. It was then lowered into its final position just west of 109th Avenue. It was supposed to be a safe way to cross busy 8th Street and a plaza-like public space with seating where people could gather.
In August 2017, a university student was killed crossing the road that the bridge was supposed to span.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)