Witness recounts the moments after the bridge collapsed: "It could have easily been me"
Families and friends anxiously waited for news about their loved ones on Thursday evening following the collapse of a pedestrian bridge under construction in front of Florida International University.
By 7:30 p.m., at least four families had come to a family reunification center set up by FIU, the Red Cross and local authorities at the university’s Student Academic Success Center.
Two FIU students, Lynnet Gomez and Manny Perez, also came to the center seeking answers about their friend, Alexa Duran, a freshman political science major at the school.
Duran was driving her gray Toyota SUV under the bridge when it collapsed, Diaz said. Their friend in the passenger seat, Richard Humble, was able to get out of the car but Duran was trapped inside and Humble couldn’t get her out. Humble sustained some injuries and is in a neck brace and a leg brace but is otherwise in stable condition.
“The way the bridge fell, it fell on the driver’s side,” Perez said.
Perez and Gomez went to Kendall Regional Hospital looking for Duran but weren’t able to find her. Duran’s family was also looking for her at area hospitals and hoped that she may have been later rescued, Gomez said.
Perez and Gomez described Duran as a person who would “lighten up any room.”
“She is the funniest person I know,” Gomez said.
They said they hoped they would be able to get some information about their friend at the family reunification center.
Red Cross spokeswoman Grace Meinhofer-Rodriguez said families who have been unable to locate their loved ones since the accident are encouraged to visit the reunification center.
“We do want everyone to come here,” she said. “We will have the most up-to-date information.”
But for anxious family members, it could be a long night. Meinhofer-Rodriguez said it might be hours before information about the victims is released. Following the school shootings in the afternoon of Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, families at a reunification center there did not find out the fate of their loved ones until at least 1 a.m., she said.
Information will be released to families at the FIU reunification center, located next to FIU’s Graham Center near the Gold Parking Garage, as it becomes available from law enforcement officials.
The center is also providing spiritual, medical and mental health counseling for those impacted by the bridge collapse. Family and friends who cannot make it to the center are encouraged to call 305-348-HELP for more information.
The pedestrian bridge was intended to give FIU students a safe way to cross Tamiami Trail and was part of a project to link FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus to the city of Sweetwater, where several thousand students live. The walkway, which had not yet opened to student traffic, collapsed on top of at least eight cars stopped underneath at a red light on Thursday afternoon.
The injured were transported to the trauma center at Kendall Regional Medical Center. A spokesperson said the hospital had received 10 trauma patients ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old. Two were seriously injured and eight were in stable condition with injuries ranging from bruises to broken bones.
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report