The final body trapped under 950 tons of steel and concrete that once was Florida International University’s pedestrian bridge was retrieved late Saturday night, leaving the death toll at six.
“I believe that's the final count,” said Miami-Dade Police Department Director Juan Perez. “We’re pretty confident no one’s left.”
After each body was removed from under the broken bridge, first responders held a moment of silence and prayer before the crushed vehicle was trucked to the medical examiner’s office for identification.
“That was the only pause in work,” Perez told reporters at a press briefing.
Miami-Dade Police said the fifth of six cars to be removed Saturday — a crushed white pickup truck — was freed from the bridge debris just before 10 p.m. in what Perez called a “laborious, tedious process.”
Now that the victims have been taken from the rubble, the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board can begin in earnest. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who spoke at a news conference at the bridge late Saturday, warned that the investigation will be a slow process.
“These are not quick reports,” he said. “These are not three-month to four-month processes.”
Rubio also noted that the accelerated bridge construction technique used on this project is a common one and does not mean “faster in the sense of cutting corners.” He repeated that if there was a mistake made in the building process, NTSB will find it and make sure it never happens again.
Police released the names of four of the six victims earlier in the day. Another was identified by family members on Friday.
Perez praised the strength of the families of the victims, who’ve been waiting for their loved ones’ bodies to be retrieved since Thursday.
“It’s heart-wrenching to lose a loved one like this,” he said. “I don’t even know how they’re holding out.”
FIU President Mark Rosenberg said in a statement released Saturday night that he was moved by the first responders that worked around the clock to recover the victims, and he announced that the university will hold a moment of silence at 1:47 p.m. on Monday — the time the bridge fell.
“I have met family members and friends of the victims. My heart goes out to them. There is nothing I can say to ease their pain but we are putting our arms around them and doing everything in our power to support them,” the statement said. “It will take time for our community to heal.”