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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Continued Coverage of Minnesota Bridge Collapse
Aired August 2, 2007 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WHITFIELD: Earlier KSTP from a nearby hospital updating us on the situation and what loved ones are being told.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, a quick update before I go to the commissioner. Once child, I just saw, moments ago, released from the hospital. That was a child who was on the bus and his relatives saying he's OK. So, some good news, there.
Twenty-eight people, you'll recall, were brought here, mostly adults, but some children, as well. And Hennepin County commissioner, Peter McLaughlin, came here to thank the staff, basically, right for the stellar job that they've done in handling this disaster.
PETER MCLAUGHLIN, HENNEPIN CO COMMISSIONER: Absolutely, I wanted to go in and talk to the emergency room staff and I know what they went through in trying to make sure to clear the decks and make sure that they could respond adequately.
This is why we have a public hospital in place it to make sure that we can respond when a disaster of this sort takes place. And they did a fabulous job and they really served the people well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were saying the communication systems that they used have been in place for quite some time. And Minneapolis -- the Twin Cities is leading the county in terms of communication to make sure a disaster like this works smoothly.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's communications and planning. You know, practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but it sure does help and I think we saw that tonight, in terms of the communications. We've invested in communication systems so the police can talk to the fire, can talk to the ambulance drivers and then talk to the hospitals. We've had the -- we've actually practiced. We do tabletop exercises, the call it. But, we've also done actual drills, where we actually do it live on the street. You learn lessons when you do that and those lessons come into play on a night like tonight. And it really has shown, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. Now, Commissioner, you have not been down to the scene, yet, but you've seen the pictures. Now, this is your district where it occurred. So, what are your thoughts tonight?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, as a graduate -- a University of Minnesota Graduate School, I mean, to have the bridge, right there, next to the campus, go down, it's pretty stunning. And to see the visuals of it are just amazing to see. But, then you see that bus that could have gone into the river with those 60 kids, but it didn't. That's a miracle as far as I'm concerned. So, I'm praying and hoping for the families and the people who are involved and hoping that they can pull through as many as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, of course, plans already in the works in how to deal with this mess, unfortunately, that's, you know, revealed itself, tomorrow. So, what is tomorrow -- looking ahead, what can you tell us about the schedule for tomorrow?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, tomorrow there's going to be -- they're planning, right now, for traffic and if you want to consult the city Web page tomorrow morning early, I'm sure the networks are going to have -- the TV is going to have some pictures as well about -- suggestions about where to go, but people are going to need to be patient, because people are going to be finding their way. This is a huge artery of brining people into downtown every morning and taking people out. There's no ballgame, they've cancelled the ballgame tomorrow, which is a good thing.
But, people are going to have to find alternate routes. They're going to need to be patient as they do that. And we're going to -- the engineers are going be doing the best they can to time the lights and move the traffic around as best they can.
But, we're going to need to be patient. This is going to take a couple of years, at least, to replace that bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lastly Commissioner, anyone that you knew on the bridge? Have you any relatives involved or friends involved on the bridge?
MCLAUGHLIN: Not that I know of, yet. And I've checked with my family, here, and friends, as far as I can so far, but there hasn't been a list of victims released, yet, but so far no one, thankfully, has been hurt in my family.
WHITFIELD: 3:00 Eastern Time, 2:00 Central Time, a.m., eight hours, roughly, after concrete and steel simply gave way at the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. City officials say seven people have died, 62 people have been injured and it's believed that 50 vehicles have plunged into the Mississippi River.
Earlier, Mark Lacroix talked to our Wolf Blitzer to give us his account of what he saw from his apartment window.
MARK LACROIX, WITNESSED BRIDGE COLLAPSE: Basically at about 6:00, like has been reported, the bridge just collapsed. I mean, it just fell right into the river. There had been construction going on south of this bridge for about a month and I don't want to say it's related to that, but that's what may happen.
The bridge was open, people going back and forth there. Something between 20 and 30 cars I would estimate on this bridge when it collapsed. I'm in my apartment about 20 stories up, so I heard this massive rumbling, shaking basically, looked out my window, saw the last few seconds of it collapse.
In fact I'm actually rather relieved I didn't see the whole thing because as been reported there is a school bus there. There's a lot of people who may have been injured or worse.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: And what are you seeing now because you clearly have an incredible view of what's going on?
LACROIX: Well, there's a number of fire trucks on the scene as well as there's police all over. I want to say they responded rather quickly. I'm watching all the news around to see, you know, a little bit more than I can say and I want to say your friends over at FOX are accusing maybe the police of not showing up because they couldn't see it with their images.
But, I want to say response is rather quick. Like I said, there's lots of fire trucks. There was a truck on the road that exploded soon after -- exploded maybe is a little dramatic, but it caught fire rather dramatically and has since been put out. It's now smoking. There are boats in the water now, rescue boats.
There's a lot of people, rescue workers, construction workers as well from the nearby construction who have come over to help.
BLITZER: So this is clearly a huge disaster by anyone's standards in Minneapolis.
BLITZER: I take it this bridge is one of the major, major connecting points across the Mississippi River and the Twin Cities.
LACROIX: That's right. You take this bridge north to go to Duluth and you take it south to get to the south suburbs and to get yourself into downtown Minneapolis. Additionally, there are two roads that go along the river on either side under -- that go underneath this bridge.
And, in fact, one of them I take home every day from work and I came home from work early today.
BLITZER: And which may have been lucky for you. It happened at around 6:05 Central Time, 7:05 p.m. Eastern, but 6:05, that's pretty much still rush hour in Minneapolis, isn't it?
LACROIX: Yes, it's toward the end of rush hour, although with the construction, it's a lot more. I will say, like I said, the bridge, thank God, wasn't fully packed when the thing fell, but it was busy and traffic behind, as I sort of charge examined the scene right after, was rather full, so like I said, I hate to speculate what the human damage is.
BLITZER: And there's -- is there any indication -- you say there was construction. What we see now, we see parts of the bridge literally atop the Mississippi River simply having collapsed. There are people standing there, cars that just simply went down. But, I assume there are many other cars that simply plunged into the Mississippi River.
LACROIX: I presume, as well. That's the best I can give you.
BLITZER: And there has been one report that we saw in the Associated Press that a school bus with children was atop that bridge, as well. Did you see that school bus?
LACROIX: From my vantage point, I can't, however, I've been monitoring the news and I can tell where it is. It's on the west side of the river here, and thankfully it was not in the center of the bridge, so the school bus is on one of the sloped portions of the wrecked bridge.
BLITZER: So, the school bus itself did not plunge into the water?
LACROIX: No, thankfully. I don't have anything more than that.
BLITZER: One of our affiliates, Mark, is telling us that the children got off the school bus, they are injured, some of them, but they did manage to get off the bus and at least that bus and all those kids did not plunge into the Mississippi River.
You say there was some construction going on atop that bridge. What was -- for the past month or so, what was going on?
LACROIX: You know, I couldn't tell you specifically, although if you contacted MnDOT, I'm sure they could give you all the details. But, basically up and down this section of highway, which is really extensively used, there has been repair to the road. I think they were widening lanes a bit south of the river.
But, they've been moving systematically throughout while keeping the entire area open. So, there I can see, maybe as you can see from your images or mine, there are traffic cones all along this section. It almost looks like they put them out now, but they've been there for days, weeks, and, yeah, this section of the bridge was fully open when it collapsed.
BLITZER: And right now -- what do you see right now? You see hundreds of rescue workers? Just paint the picture that you're seeing from your window.
LACROIX: Well, I see a number of rescue boats out in the center, and people filing into it. I also see cop cars which have stationed a number of areas on the east and west side of the river on both sides of the highways. It looks like they're taking statements from a lot of witnesses. There are people around, there's also ambulances, fire trucks. The one car that caught on fire which has caused the most dramatic display is currently being hosed down vigorously by a crane hose coming out of a fire truck, here on the west side of the river.
WHITFIELD: Lots of questions about the bridge, its condition and exactly what happened. Ted Galambos is a retired professor at the University of Minnesota. He knows this bridge well from an engineering stand of view.
TED GALAMBOS, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: I am totally puzzled as to just why both ends of the bridge would come down all at once.
I have -- would expect, if there's a failure, there would be a local failure, and it would spread from there, but this one puzzles me completely.
It just came down so fast, and it seemed to me that both ends just collapsed and it just fell right down into the river. And that -- that bothers me a whole lot.
Usually, one member fails by cracking or brittle fracture or fatigue, or you might have a member or so would buckle, but that would usually be something that would be progressive. And this one was just totally sudden.
I think it's too early to tell. I -- I have a suspicion that there was probably some kind of a overstress due to thermal conditions, possibly.
The bridge under full loading was not very stressed. When my colleague tested it, it was very low stress. It was due to the service load, due to the traffic on there, so I don't think it was overload.
So it could have been either some fatigue, failure or some sudden buckling that would cause the failure. But this -- this would have to be studied as all the pieces are pulled out.
WHITFIELD: A lot of folks jumped into action right away. Among them the American Red Cross, the Twin Cities office. Courtney Johnson is the spokes person for that American Red Cross office. She joins us on the phone, right now.
Give me an idea, Miss Johnson, what you all were up against.
COURTNEY JOHNSON, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, just to give you an idea of where we're located, we are -- this incident literally took place in our backyard, I would say that it's easily less than a city block away from our headquarters here in the Twin Cities. So, when it happens, we actually had one staff member, who was his way home from work, and laterally saw the bridge crumble right in front of his eyes. He happened to be our EMS medical direct -- our EMS director chief, and he as able, with the help of some other good Samaritan, bystanders, to get the kids off the bus and then he kind of shepherd them to the Red Cross where we were able to triage them, treat their injuries and either help reunite them, later on in the evening, with their parents at a local hotel or get them ready to be transported via ambulance to the hospital.
WHITFIELD: Because, Miss Johnson, we're talking about -- was it about 10 children on that school bus of 60 who needed to be treated for injuries?
JOHNSON: That's right. I'd say about 10 were transported to the hospital, yep.
WHITFIELD: OK, and how in the world did you keep them calm? I mean, they, among many others who where clearly very panicked about what had just happened.
JOHNSON: Yeah, it was a little bit of a tough job. When I arrived at the chapter I was here just in time to see all the kids walking in through the front doors. And I would say they had to be in range -- age range of about four to probably early teens, probably 12, 13 years old, and the kids were very upset. You know, some of them are crying, some of them were very, very worked up. Some of them were in pain, but for the most part, once they got in here, and were comforted by the Red Cross, they seemed to relax a little bit and it also helped that there was such good age range with the kids.
There were a lot of adults who just kind of spontaneously kind of helped out with these kids and some of the older kids were helping the younger kids, putting them on their laps and kind of comforting them, as well.
WHITFIELD: And what kind of comfort are you able to offer a number of the rescue workers who have been out there. You know, just feeling rather frustrated that they can't do more.
JOHNSON: Right, well, even at this late hour, the doors to the Red Cross, here in Minneapolis, are wide open and we have kind of a lunch line going in one of our classrooms where we're feeding all of the rescue workers and volunteers. We have also brought in mental health counselors, our stress team for disasters who can sit down and kind of talk through things the people have experienced. Because, as you can imagine, witnessing or responding or experiencing something like that is extremely traumatic.
WHITFIELD: What about blood donations?
JOHNSON: As far as blood donations, we will be opening our blood sites tomorrow, we'll be taking in blood donations. I believe at this time, we're doing OK with our blood donations.
WHITFIELD: OK, and so what is the greatest need that the American Red Cross has right now, your office, so that you can continue to offer the kind of assistance that is available? JOHNSON: Well, you know, as far as what we're doing right now, we're continuing to provide comfort for our neighbors who are experiencing this tragedy with the rest of us. As always, donations, financial donations are always appreciated to help folks for this disaster and other local disasters that we experience at our Minneapolis chapter.
WHITFIELD: All right, and the Website, RedCrossTC.org?
JOHNSON: That's correct, RedCrossTC.org.
WHITFIELD: OK, and a number of family members are just full of angst this evening as they are trying to find out if their loved ones may be any -- in anyone of the 50 vehicles that are believed to be there, in the Mississippi River. What kind of assistance can you offer them? What kind of guidance can you give those family members who are still waiting word about their loved ones?
JOHNSON: Well, the Red Cross has a Website and it's called Safe and Well and if you go onto our Website, the one we had just mentioned, RedCrossTC.org, you can get a link to that. And what happens there is if someone who has been in touch with the Red Cross, they can put their name down on a list to say, hey, I'm OK, everything's all right.
As far as these larger scale disasters, too, what the Red Cross always recommends, and you know, it's kind of funny, because I was able to -- in my personal life, kind of put it into action. What you want to do is you want to call someone who's away from the disaster site. I personally called my sister who lives in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities and told her since this is really close to where I work, can you do me a favor and call mom and dad and tell them we're OK, because they're probably going to be seeing this on the news.
So then, there's that second person making the phone calls for you. Because as soon as the disaster happened, everybody got on their cell phones and it was really difficult in this area to make a phone call, be it on land line or cell phone. So, you know, if you have that previously agreed upon person who can make phone calls for you, that's always a good part of your disaster plan.
WHITFIELD: OK, and Courtney Johnson, we have your Website up, this Safe and Well, we want to show folks what it will look like when they go to RedCrossTC.org and then go to, I suppose, a certain tab to get to that Safe and Well List?
JOHNSON: Yep, if you just click on where it says "Safe and Well," there's a link right to the word "Safe and Well."
WHITFIELD: OK, and folks can get some kind of guidance and comfort there about what to do next, especially when they try to locate any of their loved ones or family members or anyone in the area that they believe may have been in the face of danger, there with this bridge -- 35W collapsing.
We're now moving almost nine hours now after that tragic event taking place. The city officials are saying seven people are dead, 62 injured. They believe that 50 vehicles -- five, zero -- 50 vehicles, may have plunged into the Mississippi river, there, as these pieces of concrete and steel simply gave way on a bridge that people have become accustom to in the Twin cities area for now 40 years, a bridge that's built in 1967, but one that was undergoing some repairs.
Now, the question is exactly what went wrong and why did this have to happen?
More of our coverage when we come right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just started, kind of like, crunching down and I don't know -- we didn't know what was going on. My eyes were closed, I opened them, I saw cement blocks on the font of the car and then all of a sudden we were stopped and our car is perpendicular to the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within a few minutes, we were just: Boom! Boom! Boom! I mean, we felt this horrible -- and we were falling, literally falling. I don't think I've explained that, but you're -- but when I'm saying these booms, you were falling at the same time, like, I don't know, we're guessing 40 feet...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: They still cannot believe what they witnessed, what they experienced, but these images being replayed in their minds over and over again, as a 150 meter span of bridge, the 35W in Minneapolis, Minnesota, simply gave way, collapsed, sending 50 vehicles plunging into the Mississippi River and it also meant a number of people just kind of threw themselves into action trying to rescues all of those people who were just simply stunned about this bridge giving way right underneath them in the middle of rush hour traffic.
Reporter Ken (SIC) Barber of KSTP brings us up to date.
GLEN BARBER, KSTP REPORTER: Throughout the evening, emergency crews have been staging here on the 10th Street Bridge, behind me. Just moments after the bridge collapsed, we encounters survivors literally crawing off of the bridge deck, including a man from Blain who says he's luck to be alive.
GARY BARBENO (PH), BRIDGE COLLAPSE VICTIM: And the whole bridge just gave out and just completely fell.
BARBER (voice-over): Gary Barbeno (ph) headed to his Blain home, stuck on the 35W Bridge in bumper to bumper traffic.
BARBENO: At first I didn't know what was happening. Dust just started coming up everywhere and then I realized that we're going -- the bridge is going down and it -- it just fell all of the way down. I'm just lucky I wasn't over the water.
BARBER: Barbeno first rescued himself, then headed to a nearby school bus packed with screaming children, a youth group headed home from a field trip.
BARBENO: Me and about two or three other men were actually taking the kids off of the bridge and, you know, actually lifting them down because, you know, the bridge was completely down.
BARBER: Paramedics cared for children on the shores of the Mississippi River, a UPS man also emerged from the wreckage. Crews from around the metro rushed to the scene to relieve citizens near the bridge who, in this case, were first to respond.
BARBENO: We actually had to find a place to jump off because the bridge, where it actually broke, was about 10 feet up in the air.
BARBER (on camera): And officials confirm that all of the children who were on that bus, from the Wade Community Center, survived, thanks in part to some of the motorists who where on the bridge with them and were able to help rescue the children.
Reporting in Minneapolis, I'm Glen Barber, 50 Witness News.
WHITFIELD: Much more of our coverage straight ahead. City officials confirming now that seven people have been killed, 62 people injured, and they're also confirming that they believe 50 vehicles plunged into the Mississippi River. The recover efforts will resume at daybreak.
Right now suspended, it's simply too dark, too dangerous for rescue crews, recovery crews being lead by the fire department, there, to get underway and resume their search for any potential survivors, but again, they're calling it a recovery effort come daybreak.
More of our continued coverage when we come right back.
WHITFIELD: It's a tragedy that unfolded right before everyone's eyes, there in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A bridge, a 150 meter span of bridge, on that's well traveled, one that is very popular, any time of the day, particularly the evening during rushing, simply gave way sending a number of vehicles simply plunging into the Mississippi River. Among those who watched it all happen, Andrew Worrall, he was headed to the Twins game, tonight, when everything unfolded right before his eyes.
He just recently graduated from high school and worked for his high school newspaper, but he also happened to have his camera with him and quickly sprung into action.
Andrew, describe for me what did you see? ANDREW WORRALL, I-REPORTER: You know, the first thing I saw was the pieces of road sticking up and it was -- it was shocking, and I went closer and there were construction workers who were bloody and obviously they had been in the wreckage, themselves, and as I went further down to the bank, just people lining up taking pictures, emergency crews trying to get down to the riverbank and get out whoever they could.
WHITFIELD: And naturally, you're instincts, you know, after really just taking all this in, all of this unfolding, right before your very eyes, you know, to get these kind of images, which really kind of shows so many people in just sheer shock.
WORRALL: Yeah, you know, I don't -- I'm going into journalism and I guess it's just that thing inside me that allowed me to keep taking pictures and trying to process the information at the same time...
WHITFIELD: When you mentioned the construction workers, you said were bloody, do you believe these were the construction workers who had been doing the kind of repair work on this bridge?
WORRALL: You know, that's what it appeared to be, it's a little hard to tell. I didn't want to get in their face at all, but from what it looked like, that's what it was.
WHITFIELD: And we're looking at your pictures. Give us an idea of what was seen. Describe for me what you heard.
WORRALL: You know, surprisingly, not a lot in terms of pedestrians. I mostly heard sirens and people shouting orders to each others and saying, you know, we need help over here.
As far as the pedestrians, I was shocked -- all these pedestrians on the bridge were almost dead silent. I think were in -- just in shock and in disbelief of what was going on.
WHITFIELD: And these are remarkable images, Andrew. The picture of what appeared to be two people laying on kind of the bed of a truck. What was happening in that moment?
WORRALL: You know, people where being loaded on to body board and strapped in and then I'm assuming there was a shortage of ambulances, I did not see a lot and crews were actually backing in their pickup trucks and taking people to the hospital in their trucks. So, these were just two more people that were being taken to the hospital.
WHITFIELD: And then there's a n image where it just looks like kind of domino pieces where these cars are just on top of one another, rooftops touching rooftops and what appears to be one individual, maybe taking pictures, himself. What do you remember about that image?
WORRALL: Yeah, you know, I don't remember if he was actually taking pictures on his cell phone, I think that's what he was doing, but obviously this was just a piece of road that just (INAUDIBLE) and they just tumbled right into each other.
WHITFIELD: And then there's an image where it looked like quite a few dozen people who were looking over, you know, perhaps the other bridge, or some sort of over look. Describe for me what you witnessed, there.
WORRALL: Yes, that was the Cedar Avenue Bridge, right next to it. And there were many pedestrians, hundreds, that were just flocking onto that bridge and getting as far out as they could, just to get a better view. I did get up on that bridge just as police were starting to shoo people off of there. But, media people with credentials were able to stay on that bridge and that's how got some of those pictures from above.
WHITFIELD: You know, you had mentioned that remarkably there wasn't a whole lot of sound, a lot of things that were going on audibly around you, but say for instance, this picture of the many people, there, were there people, you know, maybe even yelling or seeing someone who could be a survivor or a victim or someone who needed help. Was there any of that kind of audible activity taking place.
WORRALL: You know, there actually wasn't a lot of that. Mainly, I think, because of the fact that they weren't that far out on the bridge, they weren't out over the water. But there were people offering their services. One man had run up because he was a very good swimmer, and he offered to help search for people. Another lady brought down her dog which is trained to swim through the water and find people.
WHITFIELD: Did they actually do it?
WORRALL: No, the police were turning then down because they had crews there already. But, their services were appreciated.
WHITFIELD: Yeah, a lot of folks just simply wanted to spring into action. I mean, natural instincts, you want to do something, but at the same time, there's great danger in sort of springing into action under certain circumstances like this.
WORRALL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
WHITFIELD: So, tell me about how often you're replaying all of this stuff in your mind, tonight.
WORRALL: You know, at least I can -- I'm, you know, watching CNN, I'm going through all of these pictures that I took and it's just -- every time I look through it another, it's absolutely unbelievable.
WHITFIELD: Andrew Worrall, thank you so much for your account. Extraordinary pictures, indelible images. And I know you, like many others who witnessed this occurrence, as well as witnessing the aftermath, these are experiences that are going to with you for a long time. Andrew Worrall, thank you so much.
WORRALL: Thank you. WHITFIELD: Our affiliate KARE has been doing a dynamite job covering all angles of this story. They actually had an opportunity to interview some of the representatives of the company who has been doing work on this bridge. Let's listen in right now.
JOE FRYER, KARE 11: We are here right now with -- PCI was the prime contractor for this bridge contract, Tom Sloan is the vice president of bridges for PCI. First of all my condolences, I know this has been a rough night for you. We know that all but one have been accounted for. What can you tell us, right now?
TOM SLOAN, VP BRIDGES, CPI: Well, as you said, we're the prime contractor performing routine bridge repairs, we were towards the end of this phase of this project, laying a two-inch concrete lift, we were preparing to place that concrete. I got a call from the project manager about six, I don't know, 10, and he informed me that the bridge was going down and there was a lot of frantic screaming and hollering after that -- ordering directions and orders to people.
And I asked: Are you OK, and he said: I'm OK and then I let him go and then we talked, you know, on a regular basis after that.
FRYER: Do we know how many workers were on the bridge at the time?
SLOAN: There was 18 of mine and 18.
FRYER: Eighteen total? And do we know, at this point, if there're all accounted for?
SLOAN: One is not accounted for.
FRYER: How are the others doing, the other 17. are the injuries fairly serious, or...z
SLOAN: To the best of my knowledge, there's three in the hospital and I really cannot comment on their condition, I really don't know. There was four being treated for minor injuries at the triage and that's what I know.
FRYER: What's amazing is we thing of most of the survivors we've talked with who were cars, where most of these people just free standing, were some of them in construction machinery?
SLOAN: I would say most of mine were standing free and at least one was in a piece of equipment.
David Lillehaug is here, a well-known attorney in the area. What can you tell us about the kind of work that was being done at this time?
DAVID LILLEHAUG, ATTORNEY: It was a routine resurfacing job. It's the kind this experienced company has done hundreds and thousands of times around the Midwest. It's a well-known company. And the workers I talked to tonight, in the command center were just as baffled as the motorists in the car. There was just nothing happening on this bridge that should have caused a collapsed. This company was not doing structural steel work.
FRYER: And that's the first question people think of. They saw construction cones and barrels and things like that when they were driving so they think this could be construction related. Clearly it's going to take time to investigate. But, is this the type of work that could even lend itself to something like this?
LILLEHAUG: No, this is the kind of work where you remove deteriorated concrete and patch it and put on a new service, it's not structural steel work. And the workers are just as baffled as everybody else is as to why this happened. They're victims and the company is a victim just like the, unfortunately like the motorists on the bridge.
FRYER: And I presume for a company like this, it's important for you guys to look at the records, the bridge inspections, things like that before you feel comfortable doing this type of work?
LILLEHAUG: Yeah, this bridge was inspected, the work was being performed under close supervision by MNDOT engineers, and this is a company with a very, very strong safety record.
FRYER: Finally, I'll just ask you Tom, is there anything else you want to say or any message you want to get out to people, tonight?
SLOAN: No there isn't, thanks.
FRYER: All right. Thank you very much. That's Tom Sloan who is with PCI, which is the prime contractor for this bridge contract, along with David Lillehaug, an attorney for them.
Back to you guys, Mike and Julie. MIKE POMERANZ, KARE 11: Well, just quickly, if either of those two gentlemen, if they'll stay with you for just a second. Apparently they're waling away, if they'd wait just one second.
If they are certain all that work was surface and that everything underground -- below that bridge seemed to be stable and inspected. What are those possibilities, then for what may have happened?
FRYER: You know, that's a question they're not going to probably get into, I wouldn't think, at this point, I can quickly ask David.
Basically, if you guys were doing surface work, Mike wanted to know, are there other possibilities for what could have happened, here. I'm not sure if that's a question you can answer.
LILLEHAUG: Any of a multitude of possibilities. This company is cooperating completely in what's now a criminal investigation, as it always is with a catastrophe of this sort. But the company has offered its employees for interviews and it sounds to me like the investigators themselves just have no idea what could have caused this. FRYER: OK, hold on.
Any other questions, Mike and Julie?
JULIE NELSON, KARE 11: Well, I was just wondering too, the gentleman who's with the company, surely has done work like this before, they operate all over. They've done thousands of jobs like this. Has he ever seen anything even remotely like this happen?
FRYER: Tom, real quickly, just have you ever seen anything like this, or anything remotely like this happen before?
SLOAN: Nothing remotely like this.
FRYER: Even nationwide, I mean, do you even hear stories of anything like this?
No, I've been in the bridge business for nearly 30 years. I have never seen anything like this.
LILLEHAUG: The project manger has 25 years of experience and he was injured. He rode the bridge down 30 feet close to the water. And he's just shaking his head, too. He can think of no reason why this would have occurred.
FRYER: Thank you so much, David and Tom, we appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: Nearly nine hours, now, after tragedy strikes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And huge span of a bridge simply collapsing into the Mississippi River, sending many vehicles plunging into the Mississippi. And now, recovery efforts will resume at daybreak. We heard earlier from the governor, Governor Tim Powlenty, as well as the mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, about the questions they have and where they go from here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR R.T. RYBAK, MINNEAPOLIS: Our hearts and our prayers go out tonight to the families and the friends of the victims of on of the most tragic nights in the history of Minneapolis.
As we know by now, the bridge on 35W has collapsed. There are several known dead people as part of that. It's a very dynamic situation and we'll be confirming more details as the night goes on.
The incident is now in control -- under the control of the Minneapolis Fire Department, Rocco Forte, our Emergency Preparedness commander is in charge of that, using resources, significant resources from the county, the state and federal officials.
We have significant resources onsite. At this point, we have search approximately 50 cars. We have confirmed six dead and we are continuing to search. We have concern that this will be a very tragic night when it is over. And so we will be continuing our work. We will be returning in approximately an hour or two with more information on that. But there are several pieces of information we'd like your help in getting out as quickly as possible.
First and foremost, because there is great concern, we want to make sure that those who urgently need to use their cell phones can. So, we ask everyone to please as little us of your cell phone as possible, with respect for those who obviously need it quite desperately this evening.
We also want to send a message to anyone who is in the Metrodome at the Twins game, tonight. That they are obviously safe, but we are sending them all down two streets, 4th and 6th Street in the city. The light rail will also be operating and so we want to make sure that as that crowd comes out tonight, that they move toward the downtown area, not toward the incident.
We greatly appreciate the support of the citizens in staying away from the site, because obviously we need to have our resources at full maximum at that point.
So, what I wanted to do now is turn it over to Chief Dolan to talk a bit more about the incident, to Governor Pawlenty, and then we will turn to Ted Canova of the Red Cross -- Chief.
TIM DOLAN, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, POLICE CHIEF: At this point, all survivors that were on the bridge are off the bridge.
We're also -- as far as construction workers are concerned, we've accounted for all the construction workers, except for one. We have assistance from the Red Cross and numerous other agencies, state patrol, St. Paul, others. We have water rescue and recovery going on right now. We have the resources that we need at this time.
We'd also say that we -- we are clearing out personnel from that area. Perimeter security is our main concern right now. And we are clearing out those areas, with the officers checking other bridges, just as a precaution. We don't believe at this time that we have anything other than a bridge collapse.
I just want to add that, right now, that we did have a school bus full of youth. Those youth have been released to their parents. And we'll have information here about a site for family members that are concerned and where they can go. And we will give that information a little bit later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
GOV TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: Obviously, this is a catastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota.
And, right now, we are focused on making sure we do anything and everything to respond to the needs of those individuals that may have been harmed in this incident, as the mayor described, the command-and- control structure where the Minneapolis Fire Department has the lead in that regard. But, they are being assisted by law enforcement and emergency responders from across the metro area, including federal officials, state officials, county officials.
That includes law enforcement, includes firefighting, includes paramedics or EMSes, technicians. It includes the sheriff's office. It includes DNR and various water resources. You saw a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter on the nearby bridge, in case there were MedEvac needs or other needs that they could help with. So, there is a substantial and massive response.
I was on site earlier this evening and had a chance to visit and see the site. It is obviously a catastrophe. And, first and foremost, we want to say to the families who are being impacted by this that our hearts and prayers are with you. But, we also want to make sure that you know that we are doing everything we can to make sure that we respond as quickly as we can to the needs of this emergency.
A couple of other just quick items, and then we will turn it over to the Red Cross.
First of all, I was on the phone with Secretary Peters from the Federal Transportation Authority. She's going to be here early tomorrow morning. She has pledged all of the federal government's resources and help.
But we've received gestures from Speaker Pelosi and the congressional delegation that they stand by and are willing to help in any way possible.
As to the bridge itself, it was built in 1967. It's a somewhat unique structure in the way that it was designed. It was last -- it was inspected both in 2005 and 2006. There were no structural deficiencies identified in the bridge. According to MNDOT, there were some cosmetic or minor repair items that needed some attention, but no structural defects or deficits identified in the bridge.
They notified us, from an engineering standpoint, the deck may have to be rehabilitated or replaced in 2020 or beyond, but no immediate or noted structural problems with the bridge.
I should also note, however, that there was construction taking place on the bridge relating to concrete repair and rehabilitation and replacement, guardrail replacement, lighting replacement, and work on the joints. That was being done, started recently, and was scheduled to be completed in September of 2007.
We also, of course, will be -- once this initial response is conducted, we will also be working to deal with traffic issues and rebuilding issues. And we will address that in more detail. But, obviously, there's going to need to be a very dramatic rerouting of traffic and transit patterns. And we're already working on those plans through the Met Council and others to try to plan for those scenarios.
But, right now, we're focused on the rescue and recovery efforts. And I think, right now, we are going to hear from the Red Cross about a request that they have.
TED CANOVA, AMERICA RED CROSS: Thank you, Governor.
It's been a very difficult night, as you can imagine. The Twin Cities Red Cross became the staging area for law enforcement officials, city officials. And the parking lot right now is transformed into a parking lot of 80 cars into a parking lot with five command vehicles and two masts for communications, boats, and police officers on horseback, all kinds of scenarios like that.
Our hearts go out to all of the victims, everybody who was involved in this. The Red Cross was also at the site that the 60 students -- 60 kids were taken from the school bus that you saw. Those 60 kids, a few of them had some injuries. Two may have been more severe than the other ones, but totally, we believe, up to 10 kids were transported to area hospitals out of the 60.
In the moments that ensued after the kids were taken to the hospital, parents and family members were coming to the Red Cross down the hill right on the river road. And there were emotional embraces, as you can imagine. There were tears of joy. There was also sadness, concern.
I'm happy to say that the Red Cross, the volunteers, the staff there provided comfort. They were there to provide emotional counseling and help, along with things like food and -- and drink. But, it was the emotional shoulder that the Twin Cities Red Cross really provided in this time of need, as the mayor said, such a dark moment in Minneapolis history.
We're getting flooded with requests, as you can imagine, whenever something like this happens, and you hear it on the radio, and you watch it on TV -- flooded with requests from generous people in the Twin Cities: What can we do?
And it's a difficult time to say this, but I will put it out there just to honor the requests that are coming. You can visit our Website. It's redcrosstc.org. There's information there how you can help, from giving blood to donating.
Emergencies like this, it's national in scale for a chapter like the Twin Cities Red Cross. We can also use financial donations, because this will certainly be breaking some budgets. We just started a budget year. It's a heck of a way to do it. And I hate to talk money at a time of such emergency, but we have a donation hot line, and that number is 612-460-3700.
Whatever generosity the Twin Cities community can share, we would certainly appreciate it. Whatever money gets donated, we give it back in spades to everybody in our community.
So, thank you.
RYBAK: We're certain that you have many other questions, but we do ask your support as we not take any at this point.
We want to want to go back to the incident center, make sure all the information we had coming in is correct. We will return to you as quickly as we can. We know you're doing an extraordinarily important job of getting the information out, but we also ask your indulgence as we go back and gather more information. We'l be coming out as soon as we can on that.
We will be -- be speaking with you, obviously, about updates that happen throughout the evening on the tragedy, as well as for actions people will need for the morning.
But, with that, we will leave. We will say one other thing that I think we can confirm at this point, that the family center has been set up at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.
Am I correct on that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
RYBAK: OK, at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.
But we will be -- we will be returning in approximately an hour or two and I'm sorry to be vague on that, but it's in the notion of trying to make sure our information is accurate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor...
RYBAK: We'll return to this point right here.
QUESTION: Is there a possibility that this is terrorism?
RYBAK: That is not a strong possibility at this point.
Chief, do you want to address that?
DOLAN: Right now, we are treating it as any possibility, we don't believe we have a -- any terrorist act, but we have investigators -- federal investigators, state investigators and city investigators all working on this case and working hard. We're interviewing everybody that was near the bridge, on the bridge, witnessed the bridge, so we're taking every precaution right now with that investigation.
PAWLENTY: There is one other thing I wanted to add that I forgot, just quickly.
Both federal and state officials, once the recovery effort is completed and we address that, we'll undertake investigations. We will be starting and launching these investigations as to the cause of this incident. The chief and the commanders on the ground are indicated that while they haven't ruled anything out, it is not likely that this is a terrorist incident. It is some sort of structural failure, in all likelihood, but we will launch both state and federal investigations in this matter. RYBAK: With that we will discuss the Family Center is 1600 Washington Avenue, if I have that correct. We'll be back and we appreciate your work. We'll be back at this location as soon as we can. Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Nine hours after a deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and what was a rescue operation is now a recovery. Put simply, that means searches don't expect to find any more survivors. That search is set to resume once the sun begins to rise, however. At this hour, officials say, seven people are dead. They expect the death toll to rise.
At least 62 people are reported injured and one newspaper is reporting at least 20 people are still missing. The Minneapolis fire chief says it appears the collapse was not an act of terrorism, but was a structural collapse. A structural team has been on the scene for several hours now to assess the damage.
Randi Kaye now, brings us up to date on what has been a very tough arduous search.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just after 6:00 p.m., smack in the middle of rush hour, the Interstate 35W Bridge between Minneapolis and Saint Paul just broke apart, sending cars plunging into the water, others teetering on the edge, panicked drivers trapped inside.
JOE COSTELLO, EYEWITNESS: I was walking on a pedestrian bridge about a quarter-mile west of the span called the Stone Arch Bridge when I saw a bunch of smoke, light-colored smoke, shoot up straight into the air from the south end first, actually. And then it rippled to the north end, so the south end went down first followed by the center section, and then it rippled to the north end -- a very strange noise, as you can imagine, a lot of wind with that amount of weight.
KAYE: Witnesses say dozens of cars were on the bridge when the center section began to crumble, then collapsed into the Mississippi River below.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just completely gave way, the whole bridge, from one side of the Mississippi to the other, just completely gave away. So, all the way down, I probably had a 30-, 35-foot freefall. And there's cars in the water. There's cars on fire. The whole bridge is down.
KAYE: The bridge fell without warning. Witnesses say a school bus loaded with children was trapped at the top.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realized that the school bus was right next to me. And me and a couple of other guys went over and started lifting the kids off the bridge. They were yelling, screaming, bleeding. I think there was some broken bones.
KAYE: A desperate attempt to save lives before the mighty Mississippi could swallow them.
COSTELLO: I did see some get out through their sunroofs and check on others. But there was one crushed vehicle that, either there's nobody in there or the person had perished, because the cops just looked inside and walked past.
KAYE: Rescue boats worked the water. Those on the riverbank also pulled people to safety, battling the mangled concrete and twisted metal to save strangers.
The fire department stayed busy, trying to put out a tractor- trailer fight. The Minnesota Department of Transportation says the 35-W bridge has been under construction since the beginning of summer. It had been shut down overnight, but reopened for daytime traffic. Road crews were repairing potholes and resurfacing the bridge. Still unclear if that caused this.
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