US & Canada

Miami bridge: Meeting over crack held hours before collapse

A worker stands near a truck beneath a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 16, 2018. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Several vehicles remain firmly buried under the 862-tonne bridge

Florida officials were told "there were no safety concerns" about a crack in a Miami university bridge, hours before it collapsed killing six people.

Florida International University (FIU) said a meeting on Thursday morning involved the engineering and construction companies, as well as Florida's transport department.

University officials say they were told that the crack "did not compromise the structural integrity" of the bridge.

It later fell on eight vehicles.

In a statement, the university said the "engineer of record" from the contractor FIGG gave a technical presentation regarding the crack.

'Obviously the cracking is not good'

The 862-tonne, 174ft (53m) pedestrian bridge had been newly erected the previous Saturday in just six hours. "FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully," the university had said in a press release.

On Thursday afternoon, it collapsed on top of an eight-lane street.

The following day it emerged that lead bridge engineer Denney Pate had warned of a crack in the structure in a voicemail left with the state's department of transport two days before the disaster.

But the employee was away on assignment, and did not hear the message until after the bridge had fallen.

In his voicemail, Mr Pate had said there was no concern "from a safety perspective".

But "obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done", he said.

The voicemail made headlines when it was released by the transportation department - but there was no mention until Saturday of the meeting held on the morning of the collapse.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMiami rescue workers search for survivors

Cause of collapse still unclear

The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, and has not yet determined what led to the bridge coming down.

"A crack in the bridge does not necessarily mean it's unsafe," Robert Accetta, an NTSB investigator, told the Miami Herald.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that workers had been tightening cables supporting the bridge at the time it collapsed.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMiami bridge collapse witness: 'This is crazy'

The number of victims is thought likely to rise as workers clear the rubble from the 862-tonne structure, which was erected days before as a walkway for university students.

On Saturday, police said the bodies of three of the victims had been recovered from two cars and taken away for identification.

One other person died earlier in hospital, and several vehicles remain under the destroyed bridge.

Eight people were taken to hospital in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

Speaking on Saturday, police said they had "an idea of who is in the vehicles" but the victims had to be formally identified by medical examiners.

Students at FIU are planning a memorial vigil to be held on Wednesday.

More on this story