Florida pedestrian bridge collapse survivor files lawsuit against design-build team
UPDATE, March 20 — A survivor of the pedestrian bridge collapse near Florida International University has filed the first civil lawsuit against the companies involved in the structure's design and construction, the Miami Herald reported. Marquise Rashaad Hepburn was riding his bicycle under the bridge when the span collapsed, prompting the driver of a car to swerve into Hepburn to avoid falling concrete. The incident left Hepburn "seriously injured" and hospitalized.
Hepburn's suit seeks damages exceeding $15,000 and claims reckless negligence on the part of FIGG Bridge Engineers and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), which oversaw the project as its design-build team. Bolton Perez & Associates, the consulting engineer for the project, is also named in the suit.
Hepburn claims that FIGG, MCM and Bolton Perez & Associates did not recognize the "imminent danger" surrounding cracks that had been identified in the bridge. The complaint notes that traffic should have been steered away from the bridge to allow workers to continue stress testing on the structure.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the collapse.
- A newly installed pedestrian bridge built to serve Florida International University collapsed Thursday afternoon, killing six and injuring several others, according to National Public Radio.
- The 174-foot, 950-ton span, which fell onto traffic flowing underneath it, had been installed the previous Saturday, showcasing the Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) techniques used in its fabrication. As ABC methods prescribe, the actual building of the bridge took place offsite in an effort to reduce risk to workers, drivers and pedestrians, as well as to minimize interruptions to regular traffic. FIU is home to the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, where bridge experts and researchers study and promote ABC.
- FIU awarded the $14.2 million design-build bridge project to Miami-based Munilla Construction Management (MCM) and FIGG Bridge Engineers in 2016. According to the South Florida Business Journal, FIGG designed the bridge, and MCM installed it. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio wrote in a Tweet that, at the time of the accident, loose cables on the bridge were being tightened.
According to CBS News, both MCM and FIGG have come under fire for safety issues related to bridge construction. A TSA employee is suing MCM after reportedly falling through a temporary pedestrian bridge while the company was doing work at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. FIGG was fined $28,000 for safety violations after a 90-ton piece of a bridge it was building in Virginia fell apart in 2012, hurting four workers.
Despite the incident at FIU, ABC has been used successfully for the quick and efficient building of bridges around the U.S. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation installed a prefabricated railroad truss bridge along a section of Interstate 235 in just days after finishing its construction offsite. Like Miami's pedestrian bridge, the two-span, 45-foot-tall, 4-million-pound Oklahoma City bridge also drew a crowd of onlookers as it was set in place.
Tennessee's Transportation Department (TDOT) is underway with the $28.5 million replacement of Interstate 24 bridges in downtown Nashville. In June, TDOT announced it would use ABC in the bridges' construction. The department used ABC successfully on two other bridge projects in 2012 and 2015.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, ABC can improve safety, quality, durability, socials costs and environmental impacts of bridge construction. Onsite construction, in particular, the agency says, can have a negative economic impact on the area around construction and can create traffic safety hazards.