Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, on Friday morning raised the possibility of criminal charges tied to the collapse of the FIU pedestrian bridge.
In an interview on WIOD 610 AM, Perez said the immediate priority on the scene is to continue clearing rubble and removing enough of the 950-ton bridge to allow rescue workers to remove the dead crushed in their cars.
“Hopefully, this morning we’ll be able to get under that bridge, remove some of the [bridge] parts and start removing those bodies,” he said. “We just want to get those bodies out of there so [families] can have their loved ones one last time.”
Perez said the work had to pause at one point when the bridge shifted, raising fears that rescue workers could be trapped. “We’re trying to negotiate through that,” he said.
He said rescue workers have been able to confirm that at least five bodies remain under the bridge. But that count could rise. “There may be passengers they weren’t able to see,” he said.
For families waiting to find out whether loved ones are among the dead, Perez said the effort using remote cameras and other means to see below the concrete can lead to agonizing speculation. While license plate numbers can confirm a vehicle belongs to a missing person, rescue teams can’t conclusively identify the person at the wheel. “We’re able to confirm there is a person in the vehicle, but it may not be the person you think it is,” he said.
As county police, fire and others tackle the rubble, Perez said the investigation of what went wrong — led in Miami-Dade by his agency’s homicide squad — is ramping up. Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the county’s elected state attorney, is visiting the scene Friday, he said.
“We’ve got to look at the reality that there may be some negligence down the line,” Perez said. Federal authorities, including the National Transportation Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are on the scene and leading their investigations. Perez said local agencies will look to those probes to help determine who may be at fault.
“It will help determine whether someone is liable for this,” Perez said. “It’s obviously an accident either way. We have to look to see if somebody contributed to that accident.”