Alexa Duran, an FIU freshman studying political science and Navaro Brown, a bridge worker, are the first two victims named in the collapse of a pedestrian bridge near Florida International University. The bridge collapsed on March 15, 2018 crushing vehicles beneath it in a horrific tragedy that unfolded in Miami.
What is known about the victims?
At least six people were killed, authorities said, including Alexa Duran and Navaro Brown. The other victims were not yet named as of the evening of March 16. Nine people were rescued. Five of those who died were still buried in the rubble, CNN said. Authorities released the information in a March 16 morning news conference, but said they were not yet releasing names.
The FIU student, Alexa Duran, was crushed in the driver’s seat of her vehicle when the bridge collapsed. A friend in the passenger side survived.
Here’s what is know about the victims:
Alexa’s 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 said. He was on his way home from London and added, “This is going to be the longest and saddest trip of my life. I don’t want to return.”
Lynnet Gomez and Manny Perez told the Miami Herald that Duran, a freshman FIU student studying political science, was driving her Toyota SUV under the bridge at the time of the collapse.
Richie Humble, who was in the car with Duran, was 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.
“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.
Navaro Brown, 37, died Thursday, Michael Biesiada, a spokesman for Structural Technologies VSL, told The Miami Herald. His cousin, who lives in Jamaica, wrote on Facebook that Brown was “a hard working humble youth…”
“We have located up to four victims – four deceased,” Miami Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said in an evening news conference. According to the Miami Herald, one local hospital had “received 10 trauma patients ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old. Two were seriously injured and eight were in stable condition with injuries ranging from bruises to broken bones.”
“This is a homicide investigation,” authorities said on March 16 in a news conference. They said of possible criminal charges: “We’re not there yet… we just want to find out what occurred; what caused this collapse to occur.” Authorities said they were trying to provide comfort to the victims’ family members. They said that the could only tell their family members that they think certain victims are under the bridge, but they can’t 100 percent confirm their identities yet, which was why they had not released names.
Downey said firefighters were “trying to bring closure to this incident. We will remain on scene until we remove every victim.” Firefighters used auditory, visual and canine help, and they determined “there were no longer any survivors.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said the day before that authorities responded to find “eight trapped vehicles under the bridge.” They had transported eight victims to the hospital immediately after responding to the scene. However, they weren’t sure if there were more victims inside the debris. Florida International University’s campus is located nearby. It’s not yet clear whether any of the victims are connected to FIU, however. A reunification center was set up at FIU, authorities said.
“The cables that suspend the #Miami bridge had loosened & the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened. They were being tightened when it collapsed today,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on Twitter.
Police have confirmed “multiple deaths,” although they have not yet released an exact number.
“We could only see eight [vehicles] from the exterior of the bridge,” Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said. “We are creating holes just so that we can physically see [if there are others].” Authorities said that there might be victims still alive in the pile.
“The focus of the fire department is rescuing people,” authorities said, but they expect that the homicide unit will be investigating.
Authorities have not yet released the victims’ names pending identification and notification of next of kin. However, some details are known about the number of victims and where they were when the bridge collapsed. Technical rescue technicians were on the scene, and full cranes were at the scene.
Authorities called the first responders heroes, and said the first call came in from a mechanic whose voice cracked as he told officials the bridge had just collapsed. A Miami-Dade police officer, who owns a business directly across the bridge, was the first responder. His wife told officials he worked on a victim for 15 minutes to keep the person alive.
Authorities said in a news conference that “live search dogs” were working “the pile” and they were in “full search and rescue mode.” Just before 2 p.m., the calls came in of the bridge collapse. As units arrived, they observed several vehicles that were involved as a result of the collapse, and they shifted to a search and rescue effort. They asked the public to avoid the area while they searched for victims.
“We have multiple victims,” they said in a press conference shortly after the tragedy unfolded. “The final number has not been determined yet.” Authorities said their thoughts and prayers went out to the victims of the tragedy.
On March 10, 2018, FIU had posted a now eerie post on Twitter about the bridge. “First-of-its-kind pedestrian bridge ‘swings’ into place. ‘FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,’ -President Mark B. Rosenberg,” the tweet said, showing a photo of the bridge under construction.
According to NBC News, “the planned walkway connected the FIU campus to the town of Sweetwater.” It was scheduled to open next year and was supposed to be strong enough to withstand even a hurricane, NBC reported. “We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge,” the university said in a statement. “At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information.”
This post will be updated with information on each victim as more information becomes known.