Editorials

FIU bridge collapse is another blow to Miami community. How could this happen?

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Aerial footage captures aftermath of FIU bridge collapse

Aerial footage shows the aftermath of the FIU pedestrian bridge collapsing on Southwest Eighth Street in Miami on March 15, 2018.
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Aerial footage shows the aftermath of the FIU pedestrian bridge collapsing on Southwest Eighth Street in Miami on March 15, 2018.

South Florida needs a new guardian angel.

In a matter of a month, our community has been hit with two unthinkable tragedies — the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting that killed 17 dead and now, on Thursday, the catastrophic collapse of a pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University.

With the rubble still being searched, the death toll is at least six, but eight or more cars were crushed under the falling walkway. Hours after the collapse, crews with specially-trained dogs and listening devices were scouring the wreckage, hoping to find more survivors. It was a painful sight to watch.

These two tragedies follow the deaths of 12 elderly residents at Hollywood nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma and the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that killed five travelers just over one year ago.

Miami has always been a big news town, but this is painful.

The victims in the latest tragedy seemed so innocent. Just people attending school, teaching kids, or driving to work or home.

Fate, some will say. Whatever that means.

And the question that has resonated in both tragedies: how could this happen? How could an 18-year-old, mentally-troubled young man storm into his former school and kill 14 students and three teachers — even though the school district knew of his troubles, even though people called the FBI to report his threatening behavior.

And how could a $14.2 million innovative pedestrian bridge being built over one of our busiest thoroughfares — Southwest Eighth Street — to literally be a uniting bridge between FIU and neighboring city of Sweetwater, suffer such a catastrophic failure and turn into what Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez called “ a national tragedy?” The bridge was also meant to save lives by protecting pedestrians, mainly students, not turn into a death trap.

How did somebody not stop Nikolas Cruz from his rampage?

How did no one realize that the new FIU pedestrian bridge, a section of it hoisted up just last weekend, was tragically defective? And did a structural stress test cause the bridge to collapse?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wasted no time Thursday explaining that FIU was responsible for securing the inspection of the pedestrian bridge — and not the state.

FIU and President Mark Rosenberg will have a lot of explaining to do about what could become the biggest tragedy to befall the university in its history. What a shame.

And those companies building the 950-ton span cable-supported bridge, a collaboration between MCM Construction, a prominent Miami-based contractor, and Figg Bridge Design, based in Tallahassee, will also be under the spotlight, and rightfully so.

Those trapped by the falling bridge had the bad fortune to be sitting at a red light when the structure buckled down onto their cars, crushing everything beneath.

Above all of that and everything, South Florida needs a new guardian angel.

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