West Miami-Dade

He saw a friend die when the FIU bridge fell. Now he wants to hold someone responsible

Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic.
Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic. sballestas@miamiherald.com

Richard Humble was riding shotgun in his friend’s SUV when a long slab of concrete and steel came crashing down on their vehicle, killing 18-year-old Alexa Duran but somehow sparing Humble.

Humble, 19, a student at Florida International University, suffered minor injuries during the March 15 collapse and escaped the crushed car with the help of first responders. Duran, also an FIU student, was killed on impact, one of the six who died.

Cellphone footage taken within minutes of the collapse shows Humble on the phone with his mother, pacing along the edge of the disaster and helplessly looking on as cops and paramedics attempted to rescue Duran.

“Mom!” he shouted. “The bridge fell on us!”

On Thursday, Humble filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court claiming seven firms involved in the design and construction of FIU’s new pedestrian bridge, meant to connect the university’s western Miami-Dade campus to the city of Sweetwater, acted negligently by not shutting down the roadway while post-tensioning work was under way.

Represented by attorney Stuart Grossman of Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, Humble joins a growing list of survivors and victims’ families seeking compensation following the tragedy. Humble’s is the fourth lawsuit stemming from the collapse and the second on behalf of an FIU student who survived the incident.

A group of construction workers watch a prayer vigil held at the site of the collapsed FIU pedestrian bridge on March 22, 2018.

Lawsuits have been filed by Marquise Hepburn, 24, who was injured riding his bicycle under the bridge; Emily Joy Panagos, 22, an FIU student whose car was partially crushed by the structure; and the family of Rolando Fraga, a 60-year-old software engineer killed in the collapse.

Among the defendants are FIGG Bridge Group and Munilla Construction Management, the design-build team behind the $14.2 million project.

Absent from the complaints filed since the collapse are FIU and the Florida Department of Transportation. Because they are state entities, they have to receive 180-day notice before they can be sued.

The bridge was designed to accommodate pedestrians at the intersection of Southwest Eighth Street and 109th Avenue. A 174-foot section of the bridge was moved into place over the Tamiami Trail on March 10.

Each lawsuit filed thus far claims there were a series of failures. Among them, the suits claim:

▪ Three days after initial placement, a FIGG engineer reported cracks under the bridge to the Florida Department of Transportation, but said there were no safety risks.

▪ On the morning of the collapse, the cracking was discussed during an engineering meeting but no traffic re-route plan was devised.

▪ And hours later, during post-tensioning work meant to strengthen aspects of the structure, the 174-foot walkway came crashing down with workers still standing on the structure.

The cause of the collapse remains under investigation.

Miami-Dade Police announced Saturday afternoon that crews removed a third car from the rubble of the Florida International University bridge collapse. The goal is to pull all remaining cars and bodies from the debris pile by Saturday night.

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