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News Conference on Bridge Collapse, Recovery Effort; Interview with Family of Missing Woman
Aired August 2, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You're with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.
I'm Heidi Collins, bringing you the very latest developments on the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
President Bush just wrapping up his remarks, as you saw. But we're still awaiting another news conference. This one from Minneapolis.
We are waiting to hear -- it looks like it's beginning right now. You see the mayor and the governor.
Let's go ahead and listen to the mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak.
MAYOR R.T. RYBAK, MINNEAPOLIS: It was a tragic night in the city of Minneapolis. And we're now into a day in which there will be one human story after the other that will tell the tale of really what happened at that one horrible moment.
It's appropriate now that we're surrounded by tremendous support in this city. And we're deeply, deeply grateful for the fact that we have our congressional leaders and our congressman, Congressman Ellison, our senators, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Coleman. Obviously our governor, who has been here throughout this.
About an hour ago, the president called to express his sympathies and to talk about his strong desire to move forward with replacing what he appropriately categorized as the most important transportation link into the city. We're also deeply gratified that Secretary Peters, who you'll be hearing from in a moment, is also here. And I think that's a very, very strong show of support by the federal government, of the city of Minneapolis, and to the state of Minnesota as we look forward to moving ahead with the recovery.
There are a series of tactical issues that we'll be talking through. And I'll be introducing people as we go through that, how we're dealing with recovery, how we're looking at the issue of the bridge, and how it's rebuilt, how we're looking at the issue of what happened and why. But I also call on people to remember that this is something that will not be about one news cycle or a couple of days. It is really about families who are now only beginning to understand the depth of what it means to have a loved one who is no longer here, or to have a loved one whose whereabouts you don't know about. And so it is important for us all to have contained compassion and sustained compassion that will stick with us for a long period of time that it will need for this community to heal.
As we have talked this morning, we began with a meeting in my office at city hall. And then we moved to the site, where we were able to see the scene. I think going back onto the scene this morning, after having been there last night, reminds you that these are horrible images, but within each of those images is a story.
That car you see tangled in the wreckage is someone's cousin or brother or husband. And one story after the other unfolds as you look at that. And I think we have to remember that, that there are some tremendous stories that we'll be hearing.
Thank god this wasn't worse. And thank also the incredible team of people who responded to this disaster.
It is -- I became mayor shortly after 9/11, and was plunged immediately into the emergency preparedness business. I was so gratified that there was already a great team in place in Minneapolis, and it grew significantly.
The FEMA folks are here, and we thank them for the fact that shortly after I became mayor, they flew 70 of us out to Mt. Weather, where we went through preparedness training. And that training was the backbone of the training we put in place immediately, that was put in place at the Emergency Preparedness Center underneath City Hall.
There's an incredible unsung hero who you haven't seen because he's been on the job. His name is Rocko Fortay (ph). Rocko (ph) is the assistant city coordinator of the city, and who leads our emergency preparedness. He remains there on the point, as he has been throughout this entire incident. But he's also remained on the point, as has our entire team, throughout the past few years as we've built and improved on our preparedness training.
We can never be prepared for something as horrendous as this. But we are gratified for the incredible courage of the employees of the city of Minneapolis, of the county, the state and the federal officials who have helped us. All of them have shown courage and compassion at a time when we need huge doses of both. But we also have done planning, and I think we will have to do much more as we move forward.
As we move forward on the issue of how to -- how to address the transportation issues, we'll be meeting in the coming days with employers and other people who need to get people to work. Those issues are certainly in the forefront. We'll be, however, in the short term, be spending more time dealing with the recovery and on the very immediate issues of personnel in front of us. We have with us, as I say, a large group of people, and I'll turn it over to them. I think what I'd like to do, if I could, would be to start with the governor and then move through some of the folks who have been on the point. And then ask Secretary Peters and then the elected officials who have graciously joined us from Washington to join us.
So, if I could turn to the governor.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, MINNESOTA: Good morning.
This is obviously a horrific incident that takes your breath away and sinks your heart. And in the horror of this incident, there is a silver lining that shines through, and that is the goodness of Minnesotans. And you saw it in the tremendous response of the first responders and emergency responders, a tremendous outpouring of support and resources and personnel and equipment. They did a tremendous job, and, I think, saved a lot of lives that were at risk in the moments and hours after the bridge initially collapsed.
We also see goodness in bystanders and good Samaritans who weren't wearing a uniform but ran to the problem, ran to the crisis, ran to the challenge and the danger to be helpful. Another reflection of Minnesotans' goodness. And so it's in this horror and in this tragedy, you see a silver lining of the goodness of the people of Minnesota.
Also, obviously, the data and the general accounts today are going to become much more personal. You're going to see the identies, perhaps, in the coming days of people who have lost their lives in this tragedy, or who have been injured. The accounts of how that happened and the pain and the burden of that is going to be visited upon families in Minnesota. And we want them to know that the city and the state and the federal officials have them and others all across Minnesota and all across the country are praying for those families and are thinking of them in these hours and days and months of tragedy, and very, very difficult times.
In terms of the response from here, obviously, as the mayor indicated, the effort now is on recovery. That's going to have to take place in concert with the NTSB investigation, as you'll see in just a moment. The leader of the NTSB investigation team and NTSB overall is here. He will provide some comments, but what he is indicating is their investigation will take place.
They will be treating this area and the area of the bridge essentially as an investigation scene, or, in some respects, a crime scene. So they want to be careful about how and when things are moved, in addition to the recovery effort. And then once that is completed, then, of course, the debris removal process will kick in.
And we've been in concert with the federal officials. I want to thank our congressional delegations, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Coleman, and Secretary Peters and Congressman Ellison, and all the other members of the congressional delegation. They have been wonderful as partners in this. And the secretary will describe more in just a moment of the federal government's offer of support and help, and it's significant and it's prompt, and we appreciate that.
But, of course, once the debris removal takes place, that will allow us then to begin the rebuilding process of this bridge. And we'll get to that in due course, but it's going to be a significant effort.
Senator Pogemiller, the leader of the Minnesota Senate, and Speaker Kelliher are here as well. And, of course, we will do whatever it takes to move this along on an emergency basis.
And then finally, of course, there's going to be a lot of disruption in terms of traffic patterns, economic activity downtown and beyond. So we are already working on and deploying alternative plans for transportation, transit, and the like that will hopefully alleviate some of that in the coming weeks and months.
But with that, I guess we'll turn it over to the secretary of Transportation. We're glad that she's here so promptly, Secretary Mary Peters.
MARY PETERS, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Thank you, Governor.
First and foremost, on behalf of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the whole administration, our sympathy goes out to this community, to those who lost loved ones, to those who were injured. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
We also want to share the gratitude of those who helped with the rescue and recovery efforts.
What we saw, many of us on television last night from Washington, D.C., was a community not just an emergency responders, but as the governor said, as the mayor said, normal people who came to the scene and helped rescue others. And I'm sure saved lives in the process of doing that.
I am here today on behalf of the president to offer the full support of the federal government, particularly the U.S. Department of Transportation, as we respond to this emergency. I plan to provide a support role and to expedite federal financial assistance, as Governor Pawlenty and the mayor have indicated, as they lead this response effort, this recovery period of this important incident.
I've asked our bridge and engineering staff from the Federal Highway Administration to provide their full support to the state and to the National Transportation Safety Board as they analyze what happened here. My experts, my staff, including federal highway administrator Rick Capta (ph), will stay here on ground to provide that kind of assistance.
We fully understand what happened, and we can take -- we will take every step possible to ensure that something like this does not happen again. I have spoken with the DOT inspector general last night. He will monitor all of the investigations, and then decide very quickly what kind of short-term actions need to be taken. I've also made it very clear to the governor, to Senator Coleman, to Senator Klobuchar, and to Senator Ellison -- or Congressman Ellison that we are prepared to provide financial and technical assistance needed to keep both the road and river traffic moving and to get this bridge rebuilt safely and as soon as possible. We will employ every method that we have at our disposal to do that.
Today I am making an initial distribution of $5 million from the department. This money will be available today to help restore the traffic flow, to clear the debris, to set up detours, and to begin the repair work.
We stand ready to make all the additional appropriate funds available as the state completes an assessment of the total damage and the ultimate cost to replace this bridge. DOT will absolutely lock arms with local government officials and be a partner in the rebuilding of this vital commerce and commuting corridor here.
The sad memory of this tragedy will never fade, but we're going to make sure that last night's damage and debris will become a thing of the past. We'll rebuild this bridge, repair it, and re-establish it in this community as quickly as we can.
Governor, thank you so much.
PAWLENTY: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
Why don't we turn to the senators.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
Yesterday was a day of horror for the city of Minneapolis and for the state of Minnesota, and there will be many difficult days ahead as we begin to go through the recovery process. So I hope that we continue to hold those who have suffered loss from this horrific tragedy in our prayers. I think it's very, very important. There are still some very tough days that lie ahead as we move into the recovery phase.
I have to tell you that as a United States senator -- and Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Ellison all said the same thing -- we're really proud of this community and the way they responded. General Mark Rosenker is here, and he is the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. And I know he'll speak with you as part of this group as to our discussion later, but he talked to me as I came upon the scene about the acts of heroism from the first responders, the acts of heroism from private citizens, and the impact that had on saving lives.
So we're just proud of this community and the way they responded to this terrible, terrible tragedy.
A couple of thoughts on what we can do at the federal level. Secretary Peters talked about $5 million, and that's just to kind of get some things moving. One of the realities is, that money technically is not available for bus service, but we need bus service. And the first thing the secretary said is, we're going to waive that, don't worry about that rule.
There is $100 million that is available for rebuilding. It's 100 percent from the federal government in the first 180 days.
The fund where that money comes from has money in it, but it may well be used for other projects. And I'll let Senator Klobuchar talk more about that. But both on the House and Senate side, we will be moving forward to make sure that that money is available.
We will rebuild. And the federal government will be a full partner with the folks at the local level to make sure we rebuild.
And the last point, ultimately, then, is to find out is what happened. What caused this unbelievable, almost incomprehensible tragedy?
Chairman Rosenker was here in the early morning hours. His team has already begun to assemble. They're on the job.
They will go through the process of figuring out how this occurred. It may take a little while, but we need to understand that. We need to understand that to make sure that this type of tragedy never happens anywhere again.
And so, from the federal level, we are full partners. I even had a conversation -- I got a call of condolence from the head of the Small Business Administration, Director Steve Preston. He said to me, "Senator, my heart goes out to you and the people of Minnesota. Let us know what you need."
So, we are committed to response. Senator Klobuchar and I will work hand in hand to coordinate those resources.
But again, I want to reiterate the need to keep the people of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in our prayers, because the horrors will continue to play out. And then to express my appreciation and admiration for the folks who responded the way they did.
I was the mayor of St. Paul on 9/11, and I remember how unprepared we were then in terms of communication. And then I watched folks go through training.
You hope that day never comes where we have to use it. The people of Minneapolis used it yesterday. And they used it in an incredible way, and they showed great leadership. And in the end, they saved lives.
And so, again, I express my appreciation and admiration to the folks who have been on the scene for the job that they're doing.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Mayor.
Thank you, Governor.
Thank you, all of you, all of the people of Minnesota. And our prayers and thoughts are with the victims and their families and those who are in the hospital.
When I watched what unfolded last night, I was so proud. I was so proud to be a part of this state. The whole world watched as this city and this state came together. You saw the woman diving over and over again into the water to look for victims.
When we got here today, driving down 35W, there was already a billboard, already a billboard telling people to take another route. You open up the paper, it says, "25 Extra Buses".
People came together, faced with the tragedy. I remember -- I was telling the sheriff that I remember that we practiced this when I was the prosecutor, the county attorney. We would have these run- throughs of what we would do in a disaster, and we never knew that it would actually happen, and it did.
A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down. And that's why we have called for this investigation.
I'm very pleased that the National Transportation Safety Board chair is already here conducting that investigation, getting the evidence that we need. We're going to have to be patient with that investigation. It's going to take time because we have to get to the bottom of this.
The last thing I wanted to talk about is the work that we need to do in Washington. I've already talked with Senator Reid and Senator Durbin and Senator Schumer, and Senator Patty Murray, who's head of the Appropriations Transportation Committee in the United States Senate. She actually sent a staff member with us today.
We are going to work to make sure that the resources are there to not only help with the immediate recovery, but for the long-term rebuilding of this bridge.
As Senator Coleman mentioned, there are caps that go in place. I think it's $100 million. If necessary, we will work to get a law passed to waive that cap. A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down.
We are going to go back there today and meet with our fellow senators, work with Congressman Oberstar, who fortunately heads up the committee that deals with this, work with Congressman Ellison to make sure that the resources are there from the federal government.
And again, I just wanted to thank the people of my state. I always have been proud, and I always knew that we'd come together like no one else. But last night the whole world was able to see it.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Once again, we learned that we really do need each other, that despite our different walks of life, that when tragedy hits, we come together. And I'm so proud to be a Minnesotan today, because we've shown our compassion for each other. We've shown that compassionate people and responsible government can bring about results for people. And so, I just want to say that I want to -- I just want to say that I am so proud of the people who jumped into the water and who went the extra mile to rescue and save our citizens. And I just want to say that we are all -- we are all at loss for the families who have lost their family members in this terrible tragedy. Their loss is our loss, and we embrace that.
And I just want to say that I've been in direct contact with Chairman Oberstar of the Transportation Committee. He is very concerned and spoke eloquently on the House floor about this tragedy and about how heartfelt it was, along with Congressman Ramstead, Congresswoman Bachmann, Congresswoman McCollum, and then also Congressman Peterson and Klein were also very concerned and expressed their solidarity with us here today.
And so we will be working together, a responsive government, compassionate people, to talk about rescue and recovery, but also rebuilding and also finding out what happened. We're going to face this tragedy bravely, as we always do.
So, again, it's good to be a Minnesotan today, and it's good to be an American today. And we have to stand together, and we will be successful. And we will look back at this tragedy with sorrow, but also with a sense that if we come together, we can come through anything.
RYBAK: I want to also acknowledge Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who have both been with us and have given us strong support as we move through this with the state.
I'd like to now call forward the chairman and the chief so we can talk through some of the issues of the -- that we've been doing on the investigation.
MARK ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
Senators, Congressman, Madam Secretary, Governor, I'm sorry I have to be in Minneapolis on such a sad, tragic occasion. Many years ago I lived in Minneapolis. My dad is from Minneapolis. And I know the greatness of the people of Minnesota and the people of Minneapolis.
I think it was displayed in courage and heroism last night. And I think it's indicative of the same kind of courage and heroism that we see in the United States, from the East Coast to the West Coast. And on behalf of my colleagues at the National Transportation Safety Board, I want to offer our most sincere condolences to those that lost loved ones last night. And our thoughts and our prayers are for a speedy recovery of those who are injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board launched a go team late last night and early this morning to Minneapolis, consisting of 19 investigators. They will represent a number of disciplines, from bridge engineering, to materials, to highway engineering, to survivability, survival factors, human factors.
We have our family assistance department here as well. And we're even bringing in the head of our materials laboratory from Washington. He will be here at 1:00 this afternoon.
This investigation has already begun, and we will begin to try to give you as much information as we can get. We will do a -- at least one and maybe two briefings a day as we learn and as this investigation progresses.
But with that said, this will be a complex investigation. There are engineering issues that we're going to have to determine, there are materials issues which we're going to be studying, and they don't come quickly.
The first thing we must do is recover the pieces. And after we recover these pieces of the bridge, we will begin actually trying to reassemble them, not in a way where it's actually standing, but kind of in a jigsaw puzzle, laying flat, so we can look at the various parts of this bridge and understand what made it fall down last night.
With that, I want to throw it back to the mayor -- or the chief.
QUESTION: Can you spell your name?
ROSENKER: Mark Rosenker, M-A-R-K R-O-S-E-N-K-E-R. And I'm chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and we're out of Washington, D.C.
Chief, did you want to say something?
CHIEF TIM DOLAN, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: Sure.
It's been about 16 hours. Just a couple hours ago, we sent home the officers that initially responded to this incident from all over, all over the state. We were being relieved by officers that are from all over the metro area. And it's amazing to see the response that we have.
I was down at the scene just about an hour and a half ago. It is still a tremendously dangerous scene.
We have several individuals at that scene that were not recovered. There are some unbelievable testimonials and stories involving a number of those people. And I can't get into specifics because we have notifications and so forth to make, but people that were pinned, people that were partly crushed, that were -- told emergency workers to say hello, say good-bye.
So it was an amazing, amazing scene. And it's going to be a very, very dangerous scene for some time.
Recovery has started. Boats are on the water. But we also have people, like I say, on land that need to be recovered, and recovered safely. So we ask for patience. We appreciate all the support that we're getting from throughout this state. And this will be -- this will be a long process.
And so thank you.
CHIEF JIM CLACK, MINNEAPOLIS FIRE DEPT.: I think Chief Dolan covered pretty well the operations side of this.
My name is Jim Clack. I'm the fire chief here in Minneapolis.
I just want to reiterate what Chief Dolan said. We've got tremendous response from all of our mutual aid partners in the metro area. The state of Minnesota has been right there with us from the first hour of this incident. The federal government, it's obvious that they're here to support us -- senators and representatives and officials from the federal government.
I would say also that the training and the equipment that we've got over the past six years since 9/11 has played a critical role in the success so far of this incident. This has gone better than any large-scale incident I've been at, and I'm very proud of the men and women of the Minneapolis Fire Department, the men and women of the police department, and all of the other agencies, the sheriff's office. All of them came together and did a great job, and they are continuing to do a good job.
I do want to reiterate also what was said in that this will not be a quick recovery. We're going to take it easy. We're going to keep people safe. We're going to keep you informed as we go along, but thank you for all you do, and thanks to the citizens of Minneapolis for all they did to help us. It was a coordinated and a great effort so far.
RYBAK: With that, we want to open it up for questions. I do also want to acknowledge that another person here who has been extraordinarily helpful is Jan McDaniel (ph), from the Red Cross. And they've been remarkable.
One of the things that was especially remarkable is, not only did the Red Cross infrastructure fall into police, but there were a significant number of volunteers who came forward. And their work is very, very important, as have all those who stepped forward to give blood as well.
With that, why don't we open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Governor Pawlenty, the White House said this morning that this bridge in 2005 supported 50 out of 120 on structural integrity, and that it's up to the state to bring the bridge up to a better standard than that.
Should the state -- could the state have done something more?
PAWLENTY: I'll let the secretary address that, and I will as well. PETERS: Yes, let me address that.
What that rating of 50 means is that the bridge should be repaired, should perhaps be considered for replacement at some point in the future. It was by no means an indication that this bridge was not safe.
Had that been the case, Mn/DOT, Governor Pawlenty would have shut this bridge down immediately. So none of those ratings indicated that there was any kind of danger here. It simply says we need to schedule this bridge for rehabilitation, and that was in the future program for Mn/DOT -- Governor.
PAWLENTY: The secretary indicated this morning, Tom, that because of the assessment by the national officials of structural -- structural needs, that is not the same as it needs to be closed down or torn down and replaced immediately. The inspections that took place, as we're told, from Mn/DOT in 2005 and 2006 had in mind and incorporated that ranking, had the inspection take place with that in mind.
And with that in mind, indicated that the bridge could continue to be used and potentially replaced in the future. But there was no call by anyone that we're aware of that said it should be immediately closed or immediately replaced. It was more of a monitor, inspect, maintain, and potentially replace it in the future. And I believe the secretary concurs with that.
QUESTION: Mr. Rosenker, as you've seen, is there any indication from what you've seen, can you determine what might have happened?
ROSENKER: No. It is clearly much too early in the initial stages of this investigation to have any idea of what happened.
We understand there's some video out there that we want to get hold of and enhance. We will also be putting out a witness telephone number, if anybody has any either still photos or any other videos that may well be out there. We clearly with like to get hold of that for our analysis.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how you do the jigsaw puzzle? Do you find a big warehouse somewhere?
ROSENKER: We will be taking it to a place where we can put together a span as long as this. Again, we'll be looking for critical elements. The entire bridge may not be put back together.
We'll do some initial investigation while it is in place at this point, and then decide what we need to do to begin the process of bringing it somewhere to understand what happened.
QUESTION: Chief, you talked about the recovery efforts both on land and on the water. Can you give any idea of how many numbers when it comes to recovery at this point?
DOLAN: I'll just say that we know of several people who are pinned or trapped. And were at the time when we left them deceased. So -- and I'll just leave it at that.
So -- and we also know there are several vehicles that were in the water that we haven't gotten to yet. So -- but as far as pinned or trapped, there are several people, and I'll just say that.
QUESTION: Chief, you said some of those people said good-bye?
DOLAN: There's an individual case where an individual was severely -- obviously severely injured and was talking to a medical personnel, and was able to say his good-byes to his family, and he passed on.
QUESTION: How difficult was that for your officers?
DOLAN: Well, it was extremely -- if you see the scene there, the officers had -- some of the officers actually had to cross girders, swim part of the piece to get to that central area. It was a very, very difficult scene, very, very chaotic. And it was not just my officers -- it was fire, ambulance personnel, medical personnel.
So it was an all-out effort. But when you see that scene and you see the slabs that are hanging there, you realize just being near those slabs is dangerous. And they were crawling over them. So tremendous -- like I say, tremendous courage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom, I just wanted to add one other thing.
In addition to the 2005 and 2006 inspections, there's a 2007 inspection that was partially completed. And the focus of that inspection, as we're told, is whether the bridge should be rehabilitated or replaced in the future. And that that was going to be completed after the construction that was currently under way on the bridge was done. So, the final report and final review is going to be in September of this year.
In addition to the 2005 and 2006 inspection, there's a partial 2007 inspection, that had at its focus, when in the future to replace the bridge, should it be rehabilitated or completely torn down. It was a future-oriented inspection with that goal in mind.
QUESTION: Are there other bridges in the state that have a worse structural stability rating than this one?
I'm told that under the national rating system, they use the term structurally impaired. There are 70,000 to 80,000 bridges nationally that have that designation. And again, according to the secretary that doesn't mean they all need to be closed or torn down. It means they need some level of maintenance or inspection or oversight or action. And if there is an indication that they need to be closed down of course, they would.
There's one category even lower than that, called "functionally obsolete". There's 70,000 or so bridges nationally in that category. So all around the country, and around the state, there are bridges that have these designations.
QUESTION: How many?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have an exact number for you now, but we can get that to you today.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN, MINNESOTA: If I can add just one little thing, purely by -- not planned, but I introduced a bill, Senator Klobuchar co-author of it, establishing a national commission on infrastructure, requiring a commission be established to report back to Congress in 2009 on the status of bridges, and other infrastructure and plans for rehabilitation. So there's always been concern about bridge repair, but Senator Klobuchar and I are working on a bill that will probably get hot lined now, through.
That was introduced before this tragedy, saying that we, as a nation, need to take a close look, and have in place a plan. That's what the bill calls for, a plan for five, 10, 15-year renovation of our infrastructure that's clearly aging.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, MINNESOTA: I just wanted to add one thing. You know, we don't know what caused this. You've heard from the safety transportation board. But this is certainly a reminder that we need funding to keep our bridges strong and that we need emergency funding when tragedies happen like this.
QUESTION: How many bridges in Minnesota, Governor, fall under the structural deficiency?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can get you that number.
QUESTION: I ask that because Congressman Oberstar indicated this morning there may be as many as 40 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the number that's applied nationally, nationally in that category. Plus, keep in mind there's that other category that I mentioned as well. In Minnesota, we will have some percent of that. However, when compared to the other states, we are higher ranked in terms of bridge than most other states.
I'd like the secretary to address that as well.
MARY PETERS, SEC. OF TRANSPORTATION: Here in Minnesota only 3 percent of the bridges fall into one of those two categories. So that is different than it is nationally. In fact, Minnesota has a very good bridge inspection program.
Let me explain a little about what those two terms mean. Functionally obsolete means there are new standards available today. If we were building a new bridge today, we would do things differently. That mean when is this bridge is repaired, upgraded or something like that, you need to incorporate those features, or certainly if you replace that bridge.
It does not mean that that bridge is not safe to drive over. The other category, structurally deficient, as I said a while ago, it means there's a deficiency that needs to be addressed, at some point in the future. It's monitored. And in no way did the Minnesota DOT not do everything that was appropriate, everything that we know is appropriate to do to monitor bridges.
In fact, as I said their inspection program is better in this state than in other states. Clearly we need to understand what happened here. I think Senator Klobuchar said it very well. Bridges in America should not fall down. We need to get to the bottom of this. And that is absolutely my top priority, the presidents, both senators, the mayor, the governor and all of these officials here, including NTSB, of course, to get to the bottom of that.
QUESTION: Is that video from the traffic cameras that are positioned on the ends of the bridges?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not gotten. The chief is telling me -- again, I have not seen it.
QUESTION: We do know it exists.
MARK ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: We know it exists. We're going to bring it back to Washington, also do some enhancement. Chief tells us its from the dam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's from the dam and it's from under --
ROSENKER: It's from under. We're going to take a look and hopefully there are other videos as well. Many times, as I say, when we open it up to witnesses, it is amazing what you end up having being provided to us, that becomes quite helpful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should mention also, at this moment, that we're in the midst of a program with the federal government to install safety cameras on bridges throughout the city of Minneapolis. That is something that is not in place, that we're working on now.
QUESTION: We've covered your investigation in plane crashes specifically all around the country and know how you and your team operate and the reports that you give. Is this kind of bridge collapse going to be more difficult to pinpoint a reason than in some of those plane crashes that you've covered?
ROSENKER: Each accident is very unique. Many are extremely complex. Some will take years. In this case, what we're hoping to be able to do is bring together as many of these parts, put them together, as I said, quite similarly to a jigsaw puzzle. And at that point, when we have all of the parts recovered, I believe it will be somewhere as close to a year before we get our final report out.
But we will do this in a comprehensive, thorough, yet still expeditious manner. But there will be no shortcuts. When the report is delivered, when it's presented to the board for determination of probable cause, it will be an outstanding report, I am confident of that, as all the rest of our reports.
KLOBUCHAR: I wanted to add that, that while this investigation is going on, the bridge can be rebuilt.
ROSENKER: Yes, ma'am.
KLOBUCHAR: It's not like the investigation has to conclude and the rebuilding process starts. Because the evidence will be taken from the scene.
ROSENKER: Exactly, as quickly as we can do that.
QUESTION: Can you put a timeline of where this process will go from today on?
ROSENKER: Sir, I wish I could do that. All I can tell you is that we will work as quickly as we possibly can to bring up the parts, along with the cooperation of our federal partners, our state partners, to bring these parts as quickly as we can to the surface, begin the process of fitting them together, taking some of these parts back to Washington, perhaps, for analysis in our own laboratories. When we get all those parts back and put together, I would suggest that it is somewhat close to a year at that point.
QUESTION: Have you ever seen a bridge collapse to this magnitude before?
ROSEKNER: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Chairman Rosenker?
QUESTION: Can I ask you if you know what work specifically was being done on the bridge and whether you think it could have been a factor. Supposedly the company that was doing that work has already said, we're not to blame. What can you say or what can anyone say about the exact work being done at the time?
ROSENKER: This is the first few hours of this investigation. I can assure you that we will be looking at every single document that we can get our hands on. If we need to issue a federal subpoena, I will sign one. We will get what we need in order to be able to understand what happened here. I am confident of that.
QUESTION: Have you seen a bridge collapse of this magnitude before?
ROSENKER: We've looked at a number of bridges in the 40 years. Some have been extremely catastrophic. Some actually resulted in recommendations we made to the federal government that, in fact, created the bridge inspection program. So we've seen some very, very serious accidents in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Secretary, wants to add a comment and then I'll address the rest of your question.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
PETERS: Let me address the specific issue. The last collapse of a bridge we saw of this magnitude was in 1983. It was a bridge on Interstate 95. Since that time, as Chairman Rosenker indicated, we have incorporated improvements to the bridge inspection and rehabilitation program, and incorporated those into the standard process.
So this is the first time in a very long time that we've seen something like this happen. There have been incidents related to a barge crashing into a bridge pier, on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma, in 2002; a ramp collapse in California a few months ago, as a result of a very terrific crash. And, of course, there are earthquakes and other acts of God.
But this is, to my knowledge, the second time we've seen a bridge of this magnitude go down without a specific reason, like a barge or something like that, since 1983. Again, we'll go through all those records and work with the chairman of the NTSB to evaluate that.
QUESTION: (OFF MIC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 1983, the Connecticut.
PETERS: The 1983 Connecticut crash was a pin that was sheered off. A pin that was holding and the pin got sheered off. That was the ultimate result of that. That type of structure is not present on this particular bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As to the second half of your question, we had a construction project under way on the bridge that started recently and was scheduled to be completed in September of 2007. That work included cement or concrete replacement and rehabilitation. It included guardrail rehabilitation and replacement. It included lighting replacement. MIN DOT inspectors were on the project regularly. I think each day during the project, including yesterday.
In fact, one of the MIN DOT inspectors, for that construction project was one of the injured people in the incident. That's a general description of the work that was being done. Obviously, the NTSB will look into all aspects of this.
QUESTION: What are you going to have as far as MIN DOT's role in this. Are you going to have an internal investigation or --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First and foremost, we'll be looking at the NTSB's work. I think it's appropriate to have the federal government in an arm's length relationship. Look at what happened and MIN DOT's role. I don't want to have MIN DOT investigating itself. We will have a federal review. To the extent that doesn't cover any aspects that we want to cover, we'll certainly do a separate investigation, but it wouldn't be done by MIN DOT.
QUESTION: Governor, what are you going to do to investigate the safety of other bridges in the state?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think as Pat's question alluded to, this afternoon we're going to have a MIN DOT press conference where they'll talk about bridge safety, the inspection program, details surrounding this bridge.
We have, as the secretary noted, one of the better or best bridge inspection programs in the country, and our ratings are better than most in the states. However, that's little consolation when you have a horrific tragedy of this event.
The first thing we're going to do is make sure that we immediately inspect and check all the bridges of this design and that fall into this category on the assessment scale. Then, of course, we'll beef up on a triage and emergency basis the inspections overall. The underlying bridge inspections program in Minnesota is a good one, and has served us well over the years.
QUESTION: How of those many bridges are there of this design?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of this particular design? I don't know the answer to that. There are some, same or similar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last question before we have to wrap up.
QUESTION: Could someone review their thinking on criminal or terror in this or how you're looking at the possibility of criminal (OFF MIC)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, you want to address that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Right now we have no reason to believe we have anything but a collapsed bridge, but we have to cover all the bases. And we are covering all the bases. That's why we have the generals here. That's why we have the FBI is here, that's why we have federal agencies, working with state agencies, working with us. To basically make sure we get all those statements, all those witness accounts, all those videos. As we said, and we'll look at every aspect of what happened here. Right now we have no reason to believe it was anything but a collapsed bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me say in conclusion that we deeply appreciate the gratitude that's come from not only the citizens of Minneapolis and Minnesota but from people all over this country. It means an enormous amount to us. We also have to remind people that we are in a very long battle here. It will be a battle about moving large equipment, moving large cars from very difficult places, moving pieces of cement.
But more than anything else, we are in a long emotional battle for people who are going to suffer scars for a long period of time. So as much as we appreciate the tremendous out pouring of emotion today, we're going to need that over a long period of time. So we call on all of you so surround those who you know, who need support, with that support right now. But to especially think about how, over the long term, Minneapolis and Minnesota can continue to be a place that's compassionate to everyone.
KLOBUCHAR: I also want to say Senator Coleman, and Congressman Ellison (ph), Secretary Peters and I go back now to Washington and we go back, having seen stories of heroism, and having seen miracles like that school bus, just sitting on the edge of the highway with little kids, who somehow survived.
And we go back to go to work, to get the resources, and to get this investigation under way. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much.
COLLINS: So there you have pretty much every official that is on scene there, the mayor, the governor, the Transportation secretary, Mary Peters, in very, very quickly from Washington.
That press conference taking place at the Stone Arch Bridge, just about a quarter mile away from where the 35-W Bridge went down. Some highlights here, immediately the Department of Transportation for Minnesota will be getting $5 million. We're told $100 million is available. That will be coming later. But this is all just to get traffic moving again, which is vital right now for that bridge, but it has really been knocked out of commission obviously and is really going to be causing a lot of traffic problems over the next, jeez, who knows how many months.
Also the NTSB investigators talking about the go teams who are in place. We'll continue to watch this as the recovery process goes on today.
HARRIS: So, updating the breaking news this morning. The deadly bridge collapse in Minnesota. A massive recovery effort is under way right now. Crews searching the Mississippi River for bodies in submerged cars. The death toll officially has been lowered to four. But that number is likely to back up.
Dozens of people were injured when the bridge plunged 60 feet into the river. Police say as many as 20 to 30 people may be unaccounted for. President Bush expressing sympathy for the victims. In a statement last hour, he said the federal government will help ensure the bridge is rebuilt as quickly as possible.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon in Minneapolis. This family awaiting word from their loved one that they haven't seen since yesterday.
How are you guys doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not too well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not well.
LEMON: The rest of their story coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Well, anxious relatives are waiting for word on missing loved ones, officials say the recovery effort will be slow and painstaking. For the very latest, let's go live now back to Minneapolis. CNN's Don Lemon is there -- Don.
LEMON: Tony, as you mentioned, folks have been waiting word, sadly, for family members. Many have not heard from them since last night. One such family joins me right now. It's the Engebretsen family. We have Ron, here, Anne is in the middle, and then we Jessica, right here.
What has the last couple of hours been like for you? I know it's an obvious question, but I've got to ask you.
JESSICA ENGEBRETSEN, MOTHER IS MISSING: I haven't slept or eaten much. Just -- you can't even explain the feeling.
LEMON: You mentioned earlier that you feel like you're dreaming.
ANNE ENGEBRETSEN, MOTHER IS MISSING: Just kind of surreal. We've got to stick together and be a family because that's what she'd want us to do.
LEMON: Talk to me about your mom. You're waiting for your mom. You told me your mom adopted you, when you were just little kids, from Columbia. How old were you? Tell us about that.
A. ENGEBRETSEN: I was three months and my sister was four months and my parents adopted us from Bogata, Columbia. I think we're two of the luckiest girls in the nation right now, because our parents are wonderful people.
LEMON: What do you want folks to know about your mom?
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Just pray, please. That's all we can ask right now, just hoping. Just be positive and everything will be OK.
LEMON: Your phone has been ringing off the hook?
A. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes.
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes.
LEMON: What are they saying to you?
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Just that we're with you, our prayers are with you, we love you. If there's anything we can do, just ask.
LEMON: Dad, I heard you standing here talking to your girls, saying, just be positive.
RON ENGEBRETSEN, WIFE IS MISSING: Be positive. That's all we can ask for all of us. Sherry would want us to be positive. She would be positive for us if we were lost or unaccounted for. We just hope for everybody, and for her, in particular, that the Lord is with her, and he's protecting her. And, you know, she in somewhere, some way, if she's in a hospital in some way, that has a Jane Doe, unidentified, that we can somehow get to her. Maybe she has the medical attention she needs.
For some reason, she took a route last night home, which was a little bit different from normal that with all the construction on 35W, and that decision was hers. That was a positive decision we all support.
I traveled that bridge for 30 years into downtown Minneapolis. You go across that bridge and you have certain feelings, but, you know, it was a very -- an avenue for providing communication and travel for all people into the downtown area, and for 35W, in particular. So we hope.
A. ENGEBRETSEN: My mom's a fighter. She'll make it. She's a strong woman. She's going to come back home. She's going to be home.
LEMON: Did she teach you about strength?
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Yep.
LEMON: To say strong now?
A. ENGEBRETSEN: Every single day. I'm 20 years old and she's still is teaching me how to be a strong person, a strong woman, and to be independent and -- but also how to love, and just be there for the people you love.
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Yep, my mom is one big fighter. I know she can get through this. She's just somewhere where we can't see her right now. She's just waiting.
LEMON: What would you want to say to her, if she could hear you?
J. ENGEBRETSEN: That we love you, and we just want you home now.
LEMON: There are dozens of families, sadly, dealing with the same that you're dealing with. What do you say to those families?
R. ENGEBRETSEN: We just say, hold onto the support for all of us. We're all in this together. We want all the best for everybody to come out of this as possible. And just hope that -- don't ever give up. And, you know, God will provide for us. And He has provided. We just, you know, rally in that strength, that we have our faith and know that whatever it is, whatever the outcome, we know that God is with Sherry (ph) right now.
LEMON: You're prepared for whatever outcome?
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes, we are. We are prepared.
LEMON: The entire world is watching you.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes.
LEMON: Outpouring from everywhere.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes.
LEMON: What do you think of that?
R. ENGEBRETSEN: I think that's very positive. We would do the same for anybody else. I mean, we did that for all the people in 9/11 or Oklahoma City, when that disaster happened. We were praying and supporting all those people. I know those people are supporting Sherry (ph) right now.
LEMON: When the girls told me their story about being adopted?
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes.
LEMON: Tell us what kind of person Sherry (ph) is. Obviously, you know, to go to Columbia and adopt two kids, it takes a special person to do that.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Oh, yeah. We had gone down the road and obviously wanted to have our children. When that biological didn't work, we found an avenue through a facility here at Jewish Family Services. And these are two great people we were able to adopt. It's a neat story. And Sherry (ph) was very supportive of that process. I mean, she loves her children.
Just the one example, I mean, Sherry (ph) has been with these kids in all their high school, elementary and middle school and she supported them in their studies, helping them in their writings, and whatever homework they had. She is a great supporter of whatever activities they were in. We were always there for our kids.
Just a very positive person, very outgoing, a person, very loyal person, a person that has great strength, a person that is very communicative person. A person that you would want to know. A person that you would want to have as your friend. We're lucky to have her -- as my wife, and as a mother to our children.
LEMON: Yeah. You were just kind of laughing because you said she's a very private person, earlier, and she hates pictures. I've asked you 90 different ways, can we get a picture of her. You said, no, she wouldn't want her picture on television.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Probably not. Maybe we can see what we can do. We'll look into that.
LEMON: We'd appreciate to have it so the folks -- there are a lot of people pulling for you. It's a very personal side of the story.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Exactly. I understand that.
LEMON: Anything else you want to say to people who are watching, and who may be wanting to help, or wondering about what you're going through?
J. ENGEBRETSEN: I would like to talk to my grandpa, he's watching right now. That we know that if he could be here right now, he would. Grandpa, we're praying for you. Just stay strong at home, OK. My mom is an only child. So, my grandpa just lost his wife about a month ago, a couple of months ago.
LEMON: You guys have each other.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yes, we have each other. To the nation, thanks for all your support, you're prayers. Keep praying for Sherry (ph). Keep praying for all the people that are missing and unaccounted for, or that were injured, yesterday. Whatever their status is, we just -- our prayers for everybody. And we hope that some of this will have a positive resolution. But as I say, we're prepared for anything.
A. ENGEBRETSEN: And I guess I would just say if you love someone, tell them you love them, and always tell them that you love them.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Yep.
LEMON: The Engebretsen family. We're certainly pulling for you and everyone else as well that happened to be dealing with this very sad tragedy.
We thank you for joining us today in the CNN NEWSROOM. And, again, our hearts go out to you, and our prayers as well. Take care of yourselves. Anything that we can do for you, certainly let us know.
A. ENGEBRETSEN: Thank you.
J. ENGEBRETSEN: Thank you.
R. ENGEBRETSEN: Thank you.
LEMON: So, Tony, that's the very latest from here. There's nothing really that I can say after that.
HARRIS: I'm just thinking as I'm listening to that wonderful family, how many other families in that great city are in a similar situation, wondering, waiting and hoping for the best. We will do the same here. Hoping for the best.
Don, appreciate it. Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
COLLINS: What went wrong? A former federal investigator talks about the hunt for clues in the Minneapolis bridge collapse, coming up after a break.
COLLINS: Looking for answers. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board begin probing the damaged bridge today. Peter Goelz is on the phone with us now, from Jacksonville, Florida. He's a former managing director of the NTSB. Thanks for being with us, Peter. Nice to talk to you.
We just heard from the current NTSB chairman, Mark Rosenker, about the go team. We know the go team was launched last night. There's going to be 19 investigators from all different areas of expertise. What will they be doing, first off?
PETER GOELZ, FMR. NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Well, the NTSB will be breaking into working groups this morning to examine this accident on a piece-by-piece basis. The NTSB has some real experience in bridge collapses and in highway engineering.
They just completed the investigation of the tunnel collapse up in the big dig in Boston. That was a very extensive investigation and a sophisticated one. When I was at the NTSB, we sent a team up to the I-95 bridge collapse, so they've got a team that knows what they're doing.
They'll probably focus on two main areas right away. One is they need to find out where the event started. And you've just got to find out where did this event begin.
COLLINS: But as I look at these pictures -- we're getting live pictures now from our affiliate, Peter, KARE 11 News, there, in Minneapolis. How on earth do you do that? It's just an absolute mess.
GOELZ: It's going to be very difficult. You've got a recovery problem, where you are going to be pulling stuff of the bottom of the river, hopefully you've got some traffic cameras and other video that might give you and indication of where this event began. And they're going to look at the structural steel, to start with. To see whether any of the steel shows stress fractures, and other material. I mean, remember, the NTSB has recovered airplane parts at 10,000 feet beneath the ocean.
COLLINS: True. Everglades, yes.
GOELZ: It's going to take some time, though.
COLLINS: It's definitely going to take some time. Quickly, I believe he said -- I'm talking about the chairman again, of the NTSB -- the first thing they'll do is try to recover all or as many of the pieces of bridge, as they can.
GOELZ: Exactly. You've got to get the parts up on to ground so you can get a look at them. You have to get a look at the foundations that are out on the river to see whether there's any scouring or undercutting of the foundations. But the metal and the concrete will tell the tale.
GOELZ: The NTSB has a very sophisticated lab, and they'll get this job done.
COLLINS: Metal and the concrete will tell the tale. Peter Goelz, we appreciate your time, this morning from Jacksonville Florida; former managing director of the NTSB.
Thanks again, Peter.
GOELZ: Thank you.
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