A prominent Cuban-American, family owned construction business headed by an FIU graduate built the ill-fated pedestrian bridge that collapsed in Miami on Thursday, killing several people.
Munilla Construction Management, founded more than three decades ago in Miami, had the contract for the $14.2 million bridge at Southwest 109th Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street. It collapsed just five days after crews lowered the 174-foot, 950-ton section of bridge into position. Reports show at least eight cars were trapped under the fallen debris. Identities of the victims have not yet been released.
The bridge was intended to create a safer passageway for students crossing Eighth Street’s seven lanes of traffic. It is part of a $124 million expansion of the campus.
An investigation into the collapse is ongoing. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send a 15-person team to help investigate the accident.
MCM is led by Jorge Munilla, who graduated from FIU’s School of Business Administration in 1997 and has been president of the firm since 1983. He and his five brothers, who also work at MCM, are the sons of Fernando Munilla Sr., who had founded a major construction company in Cuba. Today, the firm has 1,200 employees, according to Jorge Munilla’s LinkedIn page.
MCM has worked on major government contracts in South Florida, Texas and Panama, including the $128 million expansion of Terminal 4 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, PortMiami’s Terminal F, and the widening and reconstruction of State Road 821. Other projects include the bridges of the Isles of Las Olas and Miami Beach’s South Pointe Park. MCM was involved in construction litigation tied to the 19-acre park that resulted in a $478,100 judgment against the firm in 2015.
MCM also has a history with President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort was helping China’s largest privately owned builder, Pacific Construction Group, identify U.S. construction firms it could acquire, including MCM, which has a multimillion-dollar Pentagon contract to develop a school for the U.S. Navy at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. A photograph shows Manafort and Yan Jiehe, the billionaire who heads Pacific, with Jorge and Fernando Munilla of the Miami-based construction firm.
Records show MCM was sued earlier this month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court for alleged shoddy construction of a makeshift bridge it built at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Jose Perez sued the general contractor after he fell when the bridge “broke under the weight of the plaintiff, causing him to slip forward, fall to the floor, striking his elbow,” according to the suit, which was filed March 5.
In 2016, RJR Construction, a subcontractor, filed its second lawsuit against MCM, alleging that it breached its contractual obligations regarding work at Miami International Airport.
The company was also cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for at least three “serious” violations from 2014 to 2017, according to OSHA. More information on the violations is not available online.
Members of the Munilla family were not available for comment on Thursday, as crews remained focused on rescue and recovery efforts.
MCM said in a statement on Twitter that the company “will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and we will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way.”
Documents show MCM gave nearly $25,000 to the six candidates running for Miami-Dade County Commission over the past two years. The firm is currently trying to win an $800 million contract to build the new I-395 bridge in downtown Miami.
In addition to MCM, FIGG Bridge Engineers designed the bridge. Cemex provided the concrete. Barnhart Crane and Rigging operated the transporters that placed the bridge on its permanent supports.
FIGG Engineering, based in Tallahassee, has designed or built bridges valued at more than $10 billion in 39 states and six countries, according to its website.
Christian Bautista contributed reporting.