Authorities announced early Friday morning they no longer believe they will find anyone alive in the rubble of the collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University.
Overnight, the search and rescue mission became a search and recover effort. Officer Lee Cowart, spokesperson of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told the Miami Herald that there are no signs of life within the rubble.
“We don’t anticipate that we will find anybody alive in there,” Cowart said.
So far, nine people have been removed from the collapse and transported to Kendall Regional Medical Center. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that six people had died when the 950-ton bridge collapsed in minutes around 2 p.m. Thursday. The $14.2 million bridge, whose span was dropped into place on Saturday, crosses over Southwest Eighth Street and 109th Avenue, right in front of FIU’s main campus in Southwest Miami-Dade.
Cowart said Miami-Dade police do not know how many people are still missing, and at this point presumed dead. Fire rescue said eight vehicles remained trapped under the bridge.
A reporter spoke with one mother by the police crime scene tape late Thursday whose daughter was known to be in one of the crushed vehicles. After not finding her daughter at local hospitals, the mother returned to the bridge to beg to search the rubble herself. She was turned away with no answers.
The deceased will be transported directly to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office, 1851 NW Ninth Ave., Miami. Families are encouraged to reach out to the family reunification centers at FIU and local hospitals for information about their loved ones.
Now that the search is not for survivors but for the recovery of possible remains and extraction of still-trapped vehicles, the excavation process will proceed more slowly and with the highest caution. Around 1 a.m. Friday, heavy machinery was removed, and small teams were seen inspecting the site around the edges.
“They are working through the night,” said Cowart. “That whole structure is considered unsafe right now.”
Teams of engineers working with the Miami-Dade police will shore up the structure to prevent any further collapse, which could be dangerous for investigators as they continue their recovery efforts. The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of investigators to examine the bridge collapse. While the exact cause of the collapse remains unclear, officials confirmed the bridge was undergoing a stress test before the collapse.
Authorities have said Southwest Eighth Street between107th and 117th avenues will be closed indefinitely for the investigation.
FIU is opening the campus on Friday and offering free counseling services to friends and families of the victims. Classes at the university won’t resume until Monday, as FIU is on spring break.