Victims of the FIU bridge collapse
In life and in death, Brandon Brownfield was beloved by his wife of almost four years and his three young daughters.
After three agonizing days waiting for confirmation of his whereabouts, his family learned Sunday that Brownfield was the sixth victim of the collapse of a pedestrian bridge by Florida International University on March 15.
Brownfield’s wife, Chelsea Brownfield, posted repeatedly on Facebook in the days following the collapse, updating family and friends and asking them to pray for a miracle.
“Please pray that my best friend is alive and hanging on until help can reach him,” she wrote late the night of the bridge collapse.
The Brownfields have three daughters, Leah, Bethany, and Danielle, who are between the ages of about 10 months and 5 years, said Pastor Ben Stilwell-Hernandez with First United Methodist Church in Homestead. The family has been attending his church since October and had just recently moved into a home in Homestead, he said.
In the hours following the collapse of the bridge, Brownfield’s family and friends said they could see his truck and license plate under the bridge, but did not know anything about his whereabouts. Brownfield was a tower crane technician at Maxim Crane Works, but was not working on the FIU site.
Chelsea Brownfield confirmed his death on Facebook in a post that has been “liked” by more than 4,300 people, including strangers from various parts of the country who reached out to the family. She called her husband of three years and 11 months her soul mate.
“Like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, our crazy curvy edges matched and we fit together like no one else could,” she wrote. “Please keep us in your prayers, as I now have to find the words and the answers to tell my girls that their Daddy is not coming home.”
Ryan Lee, a friend of the Brownfields, created a GoFundMe page on the day of the bridge collapse to help the family. Nearly a week later, the page has collected about $87,000 in donations. In a post, Lee described Brownfield as a “genuine stand-up family man.”
According to his social media profiles, Brownfield worked as a crane technician on several recent developments in Brickell, including the EAST, Miami hotel and the Panorama Towers, the tallest building in Florida. He was from Waynesboro, Virginia and studied at Brevard Community College in Florida.
On Facebook Sunday, Chelsea Brownfield thanked those who had supported the family as they waited for news of her husband.
“I want to thank you all for your continuous love and support and prayers over the last three days,” she wrote. “The coming days are going to be excruciating, as we dig deep to find the strength we need to heal.”
She has since continued to chronicle her family’s journey since the loss of her husband via Facebook. Her most recent post, on Tuesday, shows an image of her daughter Leah at a baseball game. The last time the family had gone to the ball field was the day before the bridge collapse, she said.
Tuesday’s game was their first outing as a family of four, she wrote.
“Everywhere we go, we are filled with the memories we have of Brandon being with us,” Chelsea Brownfield wrote, adding that though the day was difficult, it “warmed her heart” to see her daughter excited about her game.
“...Even though I’m sure she missed her Daddy, she had so much family cheering her on,” Brownfield wrote. “All we can do is take life one day at a time, accept the emotions as they come, and remember that it’s okay to celebrate the happy moments.”