Two flattened vehicles were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed Miami bridge early Saturday and three victims were discovered inside.
A total of eight cars were trapped when the 950-ton pedestrian bridge buckled at Florida International University, several were completely pancaked under the massive slabs of concrete, which has made recovering victims inside difficult.
Heartbreaking photos and footage of the removal shows officials pulling a Jeep and Chevrolet pickup truck from under what used to the bridge. The vehicles were nearly unrecognizable as both roofs appeared caved in.
The only portions of the vehicles that appeared intact were the tires and front grills.
Officials cut portions of the bridge to make it easier to lift the concrete. The vehicles were covered as they were pulled out then a crane was used to haul them to the medical-examiner’s office.
That’s where those inside were extracted.
The three victims are part of the estimated death toll of six, but that number could increase as more vehicles removed, Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said during a Saturday news conference.
Police identified four of the victims Saturday as Rolando Fraga Hernandez, Oswald Gonzalez, 57, Alberto Arias, 53, and Navarro Brown. Three of the victims were pulled from the two vehicles. The fourth died at a hospital after the accident.
Saturday afternoon, crews continued in their around-the-clock effort to free the trapped vehicles. They’re hopeful that Saturday “we’ll have completed the mission,” Perez said, adding there was still no guarantees.
“It’s going to be a long process. We’ve been saying that from the beginning because of the amount of weight and the size of the structure,” Perez said.
More information has been released about the condition of the bridge before its collapse.
Two days before the bridge crumpled, an engineer for FIGG Bridge Group, the firm that designed the walkway, left a voicemail for officials at the Florida Department of Transportation about cracking in the bridge.
“We’ve taken a look at it and, uh, 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, ya know, done to repair that,” the engineer said, according to a transcript provided by state officials.
The transportation department said officials did not hear the message until Friday, a day after the accident.
The university said two hours before the bridge fell, they had a meeting to discuss the crack. Engineers concluded there were no safety concerns.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading an investigation into the accident, was able to determine that workers were tightening two wires that held the bridge in place at the time of the collapse.
But officials say they still need to know much more before coming to a conclusion about what happened and why.
It’s still unclear why cars were allowed to travel under the bridge when the wire-tightening was ongoing.