On Thursday, March 15, a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, collapsed, leaving six people dead and several others injured.
“The pedestrian bridge across Southwest Eighth Street has collapsed, please avoid the area,” a message on FIU’s Twitter page read. The school issued the following statement a short while after the accident.
“We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time, we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information. We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene. We will share updates as we have them.”
A Florida International University student by the name of Alexa Duran died in the accident. Her father confirmed the devastating news to el Nuevo Herald on Friday, March 16.
“My little girl was trapped in the car and couldn’t get out. She died when the bridge collapsed on top of her car,” Orlando Duran told the outlet in Spanish. He was in London at the time of the accident and is on his way to Florida.
“This is going to be the longest and saddest trip of my life. I don’t want to return,” he said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Driving Under the Bridge When it Collapsed & Her Friend Who Was Riding in the Passenger Seat Was Able to Escape
Two friends of Duran told the Miami Herald that they went to the university’s Student Academic Success Center, which is being used as a family reunification center, to look for her. They also went to the hospital, where several victims sought treatment, but were unable to find their friend.
Lynnet Gomez and Manny Perez told the Miami Herald that Duran was driving her Toyota SUV under the bridge at the time of the collapse.
“The way the bridge fell, it fell on the driver’s side,” Perez told the Miami Herald.
Their other friend, Richie Humble, was in the car with Duran, riding on the passenger’s side. He was able to get out of the vehicle, but he couldn’t get Duran out. He is in neck and leg braces, but is otherwise okay.
“We were parked at a red light and I started to hear the bridge creak, so I look up and I saw the bridge falling on top of us. It fell on the roof of the car and…kind of caved in on my neck and squished me down. But I didn’t really know what was going on at all,” Humble told Today.
“I screamed [Alexa’s] name over and over again, but I didn’t hear anything,” he added.
2. She Studied Political Science at FIU & Was Pledging a Sorority
Duran was a freshman at Florida International University, where she majored in political science. The 18 year old was a member of the newest pledge class for the Alpha Xi Delta, a sorority at FIU.
“Founded in 1893 at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois, Alpha Xi Delta is one of the oldest women’s fraternal organizations in the United States. With more than 175,000 initiated members, Alpha Xi Delta is a progressive organization dedicated to the personal growth of women. Through membership in Alpha Xi Delta, Sisters are inspired to realize their potential through the ideals our Founders instilled in our Fraternity: Sisterhood, leadership, knowledge and service to our communities.”
Before enrolling at FIU, Duran attended Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School — a co-educational, private Catholic school, located in Fort Lauderdale.
“It is the school’s sacred trust to provide a varied program of religious experiences, educational offerings, athletic programs, social and cultural opportunities and community service encounters that will provide a foundation upon which the individual recognizes one’s personal relationship with community and Church,” reads the “About” section on the school’s website.
3. She Is Described as a Person Who Would ‘Lighten up a Room’
Lynnet Gomez and Manny Perez had nothing but wonderful things to say about Duran. Not only was she the kind of person that can instantly “lighten up a room,” but she also had a great sense of humor.
“She is the funniest person I know,” Gomez told the Miami Herald. Gomez and Duran attended high school together and are good friends, according to el Nuevo Herald.
The two girls lived near one another in Miami Lakes, a Miami suburb that is approximately 20 minutes from FIU.
“She was a very bright person, and she always had a smile on her face,” another friend of Duran told Local 10 News. “We had to call her mom. It was a rough process.”
4. Police Have Confirmed 6 Deaths, But That Number Could Rise
Authorities have confirmed that six people died in Thursday’s accident, but have not released the names of any of the deceased.
Ten people have been receiving treatment at Kendall Regional Medical Center’s trauma unit. Eight of those patients are expected to be okay after being treated for minor injuries, including cuts and broken bones. Two of those victims are listed in critical condition.
According to the Miami Herald, one of those victims went into cardiac arrest and required emergency surgery. The other victim also required surgery and was being treated by a neurosurgeon.
“The most important thing we can do right now is pray for the individuals who ended up in the hospital, for their full recovery, and pray for the family members who lost loved ones,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said during a press conference.
5. The Bridge Was Put Into Place on Saturday, March 10
Florida International University wanted to install a pedestrian bridge to connect the city of Sweetwater with the northern entrance of the school. The bridge was suspended over 8th Street, a busy road that consists of multiple lanes of traffic.
The bridge was erected in an effort to help ensure the safety of students and faculty who walked to the school. Previously, they have had to walk across the very busy street to get to the school, which has proven to be dangerous — in August 2017, a female student by the name of Alexis Dale was killed when she was hit by a car while crossing the street.
“It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that early this morning an FIU student was struck by a vehicle while crossing SW 8th Street at 109th Avenue, adjacent to MMC,” an official statement from the university read at the time.
The bridge was propped up on “temporary supports, [before being] rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare, and lowered into its permanent position,” on Saturday, March 10, according to FIU.