Thursday, August 2, 2007

Minnesota Bridge Tragedy

From the Chicago Tribune:
By Jon Hilkevitch and John McCormick | Tribune staff reporters

Investigators will sift through records and wreckage to determine what caused an interstate highway bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minnesota's Twin Cities to collapse during the Wednesday evening rush hour.

The disaster sent dozens of vehicles crashing into the river with panicked drivers and passengers trapped inside, authorities said. At least seven people were confirmed dead, Minneapolis officials said. At least 60 people were taken to area hospitals, officials said.

The 40-year-old arched bridge, Interstate Highway 35W in Minneapolis, had been undergoing routine resurfacing this summer, according to the state Department of Transportation. It was not immediately known whether the construction, which did not involve the bridge's structure, was a factor in the roadway buckling.

The bridge went down suddenly and fast, witnesses said. They recounted how the center section of the 64-foot-high steel structure began to crumble first, in a "V" shape without warning, and the rest of the bridge then broke into huge sections.

Numerous vehicles caught on fire and rescuers plucked survivors from the water. The wreckage of the bridge was scattered along the east bank of the Mississippi, and a large piece of roadway remained on the west bank.

Peter Siddons was on his commute home north when he heard "crunching" and saw the bridge start to roll and then crumple, he told the Star Tribune. "It kept collapsing, down, down, down until it got to me."

His car dropped with the bridge but stopped when his car rolled into the car in front of him. He got out of his car, jumped over the crevice between the highway lanes and crawled up the steeply tilted section of broken bridge and jumped to the ground.

"I thought I was dead," said the senior vice president at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. "Honestly, I honestly did. I thought it was over."

By late evening, the rescue response was halted and the focus of divers shifted to a recovery effort, emergency officials said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called the collapse a "catastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota."

My thoughts and prayer go out to all of you out there tonight who are affected by this tragedy. It is beyond comprehension.


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