Crack in Miami bridge didn’t raise red flags before it collapsed

Two days before the bridge collapsed, killing at least six victims, an engineer tried to tell the Florida Department of Transportation that a crack would require repair but didn't pose a safety issue

Federal agencies and county police are investigating the collapse of unfinished pedestrian bridge at FIU on Thursday. (Credit:
Federal agencies and county police are investigating the collapse of unfinished pedestrian bridge at FIU on Thursday. (Credit:

An engineer involved in the design of the pedestrian bridge that collapsed Thursday at Florida International University left a voice-mail message on Tuesday warning a state transportation official of “some cracking” in the bridge.

The engineer, Denney Pate of FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc., said in the message that he did not regard the cracking as a safety issue. At least six people were killed when the 174-foot, 960-ton bridge collapsed. More victims may be buried in debris.

The voice-mail message was three days old when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) retrieved it Friday. The message wasn’t immediately retrieved because it was left for an FDOT official who was out of the office on assignment, according to the state agency.

In a transcript of the phone message released by FDOT, Pate said he called to “share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of that span we moved this weekend.”

Pate went on to say that “obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done. But from a safety perspective, we don’t see that there’s any issue there, so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective, although obviously, the cracking is not good, and something’s going to have to be, you know, done to repair that.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

FIGG Bridge Engineers, which designed the bridge, said in a statement Friday night that the firm is “carefully examining the steps that our team has taken in the interest of our overarching concern for public safety.”

Apparently referring to the engineer’s assessment that a crack in the bridge wasn’t a safety issue, FIGG also said “the evaluation was based on the best available information at that time.”

FIGG and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), the contractor that build the bridge, held a two-hour meeting with officials of FIU and FDOT on Thursday prior to the collapse of the bridge “to discuss a crack that appeared on the structure,” the university said in a statement.

“The FIGG engineer of record delivered a technical presentation regarding the crack and concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” according to the FIU statement.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that cables suspending the bridge had loosened, and that FIGG Bridge Engineers ordered they be tightened. Rubio tweeted that the cables were being tightened when the bridge collapsed.

The bridge collapse is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and homicide detectives with the Miami-Dade Police Department. [Washington Post]Mike Seemuth