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Pedestrian Bridge Collapses at Florida International University. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 15, 2018 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[14:31:47] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: More breaking news out of Miami, Florida. I want to take you back to these images. A pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University.

I want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world as we continue to follow this breaking news.

We are still learning new information. We just got word from police there are several fatalities. That means several people have died in this event. It's not known how many others may still be injured. You can see that now there are a number of law enforcement vehicles and rescue vehicles there on the scene, working to try to assess the situation. As we heard from Art Broderick, they would be going into a triage mode here as they work to help those who may be injured in this.

As we're getting more information here, this is a pedestrian bridge on Florida International University. According to some of the local reporting there, this was a new bridge on the campus, trying to connect it to the Sweetwater area, collapsed Tamiami Trail (ph), again, moments ago. As we continue to follow this information. Of course, it's very early in the investigation and we're working to gather more details.

I want to bring in our Kaylee Hartung, who is working to speak with officials on the ground.

Kaylee, what more have you learned?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we've just learned from Florida's highway patrol that several are dead and that five to six are injured. This, in addition to the information we were learning from the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department that there were multiple injuries here.

This newly installed portion of this pedestrian bridge, it's a 950-ton section that you see collapsed there. It came at a cost of about $14 million. Construction on this new part of the bridge began in spring of 2017, a portion being removed and then replaced. It was just Saturday that this new portion of the bridge's installation was completed. At this time, we don't know what led to the scene you are seeing now. But we can now tell you that Florida Highway Patrol saying several are dead. That number, unclear, but several are dead, and five to six vehicles have been crushed beneath that bridge -- Ana?

CABRERA: My goodness.

We're getting additional reporting from one of our producers, who also has family in that area, and he says that this is a university that is the second-largest public university there in Florida, home to about 50,000 students who go to Florida International University.

The pedestrian bridge, if you are familiar with Florida at all in this area, goes over southwest 8th Street connecting the campus with the housing areas in the Sweetwater neighborhoods. Hopefully, that gives you a better sense of exactly where this happened. It's his understanding, our producer, that this just opened last week.

As you're reporting, as well, Kaylee, they've been working to fix a portion of that bridge, so that there will immediately be questions about what happened and whether there was some kind of engineering failure here or a construction failure as they were reopening this bridge that had been under construction very, very recently.

Right now, of course, the main focus will be to get to those who may still be on scene, who may be injured, trying to identify those injured and those who may have died.

Kaylee, we now know there were multiple fatalities in this scene.

[14:35:17] HARTUNG: That's right. And we're now learning, Ana, from WSVN, one of our affiliates in that area, that their helicopter pilot was asked by police to move away from that scene so that emergency crews on the ground could hear if there were survivors calling for help, crushed beneath that bridge. Chopper pilots in that area, like our affiliate, WSVN, being asked to leave the area so that even the faintest sound could be heard where help is need.

CABRERA: Again, this happening right after the lunch hour. So a lot of people would have been out and about in that area. That just adds to the sense of urgency in getting to those who may need help.

Kaylee, thank you for that reporting. I know you're continuing to work on getting additional information, as are we.

We'll take another quick break and we'll be right back as we continue to follow this breaking news coverage out of Miami, Florida, a pedestrian bridge that has collapsed with multiple fatalities on the campus of Florida International University. Don't go anywhere.

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[14:40:45] CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN. Back to the live images out of Miami, Florida, right now, the scene of a growing tragedy. A bridge that has come down, crushing cars, crushing pedestrians. This was a pedestrian bridge recently installed just days ago, in fact, on the campus of Florida International University. The campus home to 50,000 or so students, the second-largest public university in the state of California.

I want to bring back in our Kaylee Hartung.

Kaylee, I'm looking at an article from the "Miami Herald" just posted, published days ago, with the title, "Instant bridge aims to make a dangerous crossing safer for thousands of students." This bridge was designed to help make it easier for people to get from one side, from the Sweetwater community onto campus. They have an estimated 4000- some students who go to this university who live on the other side. And there's a large highway that this bridge was crossing.

HARTUNG: That's right, Ana. That's the very busy 8th Avenue that students needed help crossing safely so much that the university was running shuttles to carry students across that busy street while this bridge was being constructed.

And this pedestrian bridge was being billed as the first of its kind in the lead-up to its opening. FIU officials had explained to reporters that the bridge was being built using what they called accelerated bridge construction methods. And the university said the modular method would reduce potential risks to workers, commuters and pedestrians and would also minimize the traffic interruptions. But to hear that a bridge being billed as the first of its kind now crumbling in the scene before us, as we observe, brings about so many questions that we can't possibly answer at this moment. As we continue to hear from the Florida Highway Patrol that several are dead and, as you can see there, cars crushed beneath that pedestrian bridge on the busy 8th Avenue that runs through Florida International University.

CABRERA: Florida Highway Patrol telling us they believe five to six vehicles are crushed underneath that bridge, which also speaks to how wide and how large that bridge is. Some 950 tons is believed to be the weight of that section that has come down. We did see a crane earlier on site. Obviously, they haven't been able to get that crane over to the bridge itself to lift it up. We presume they're going through the method of trying to assess how they're going to remove that and, perhaps, help those who still may be underneath.

I want to bring in James Galiano, former FBI.

James, obviously, this is a different kind of tragedy that first responders will be coming upon. What would they be doing right now, do you think?

James Galiano, can you hear me?

Unfortunately, we are having a hard time with our connection, apparently, with our FBI agent, former FBI special agent, James Galiano. We'll get back to him in a moment.

But, again, these pictures coming to you from Florida International University as we work to gather more information.

What we can tell you about this bridge, this is a pedestrian bridge. We learned it was installed just a few days ago, on Saturday. In fact, the local newspaper there, "Miami Herald," covered the installation on March 10th. I'm reading from this article, it says, "The rapid span installation was the result of months of preparation. The bridge's main 174-foot span was assembled by the side of the trail while support towers were built at either end."

And then this 950-ton span was picked up and moved and lowered into place by special gantry cranes at this intersection designed to -- and it was within a matter of hours, designed to connect the neighborhood of Sweetwater with the campus, the Florida International University campus.

This happened on Saturday. So the question now is, what went wrong in this installation process?

We're also getting some reporting from Rene Marsh that the NTSB is monitoring the developments here at Florida International University at this bridge collapse. They've not made a determination yet whether they will get involved in the investigation. Right now, this coming down within the last couple of hours at the very least. We don't know exactly where this investigation will begin because, right now, the immediacy here is saving those who may be injured. Again, several fatalities already reported.

[14:45:21] We'll take another quick break. You're watching CNN. Thank you for staying with us in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[14:49:52] CABRERA: We continue to follow breaking news here on CNN. Live images from Miami, Florida, where a pedestrian bridge collapsed on the campus of Florida International University. Officials there tell us there are multiple fatalities and multiple cars crushed underneath that bridge right now.

I want to bring in Ricardo Dejo, a student at Florida International University.

Ricardo, you are live on CNN right now. Thank you for spending time with us.

First, tell me what you're seeing. I understand you've arrived nearby that bridge.

RICARDO DEJO, STUDENT, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY (via telephone): Well, there were some cars pin under the bridge. And we don't know what's going on with those people.

CABRERA: Wow! I did only imagine what's going through your mind right now. Can you tell me how you're feeling and what you're experiencing there, as you see this scene unfold before your very eyes?

DEJO: Well, I can't describe it. We were so excited to have the bridge. I was really excited about the bridge and now seeing it like this, I don't know how to explain it.

CABRERA: Do you know how many people were in this scene when the bridge came down? Are people describing for you what the scene was like?

DEJO: No. Just the police and the first responders were doing their job, keeping people away.

CABRERA: Where exactly are you in relationship to this bridge and what we're seeing right now an aerial view from a helicopter from one of our affiliates, WSVN right now that's just sort of steady. If you're on the ground can you tell me where exactly you are and what you're witnessing?

DEJO: I was in the parking garage floor that is literally right next to the bridge, but we have been removed from there. The first responders asked us to remove ourselves from the parking garage.

CABRERA: Were you there when the bridge came down or did you go toward the scene once you heard about its collapse?

DEJO: When we heard -- actually, the collapse wasn't that loud. We heard the hell can copters, actually, which first told us something was going on and then the first responders rushing in and then we think to ourselves, hopefully, it's not the bridge. And it ended up being the bridge.

CABRERA: What can you tell us about this bridge? You, yourself, are an engineering student. You were really excited about it. This is a new bridge?

DEJO: I'm sorry?

CABRERA: This was a new bridge?

DEJO: Yes. It wasn't completed. It was near completion. It was already put in place and it was just an amount of time for people to enjoy it. Nobody knows what happened.

CABRERA: So, let me just make sure I understand this right. You don't believe the bridge was even open to pedestrians to cross yet? It had just been installed?

DEJO: Well, it wasn't completely installed. It was a percentage, let's say. It was pretty much near completion. It was almost done. It was already on top of the road. And everything looked fine. I went underneath it with my own car. It looked great.

CABRERA: When you talk about the cars, the traffic in this area, I read earlier a headline from the "Miami Herald" talking about how this bridge was to make this dangerous crossing safer for thousands of students who live on the other side of the avenue. What can you tell us about this area, the traffic, and what would a normal afternoon there typically be like?

DEJO: Well, the bridge would have been completed and have been stable, yes, it would help tremendously. It connects the main campus to the main road that allows you to cross safely. There were additional students living facilities and also the center at the school. I have been using it more often myself.

CABRERA: Ricardo Dejo, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. Sorry for what you and your fellow students are experiencing there today. And our heart goes out to all of those impacted by this bridge collapse.

I want to bring in Isabella Carosco.

Isabella, I understand you had just driven under this bridge this afternoon?

ISABELLA CAROSCO, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Yes, ma'am, right before the bridge collapsed, moments before.

CABRERA: Moments before. Did you hear or see the bridge actually come down then?

[14:55:59] CAROSCO: Well, I had heard it. We had turned right into the FIU campus going under the bridge and we had commented on how the bridge had opened up the area again, because it was under construction. We turned right and heard a loud bang behind us. We thought maybe someone hit us or we had hit somebody else. We looked back, and the bridge had completely collapsed.

CABRERA: Wow! We're looking at a picture that you sent, that you took of that bridge there on the ground. This looks like it was before a lot of the emergency personnel arrived on scene.

CAROSCO: Yes, ma'am.

CABRERA: Describe for me then what happened next, once you heard that bridge come down?

CAROSCO: We had gotten out of the car. We were the first -- we had seen police officers like seconds after we got out of the car. FIU police closed off the road and started helping people. And there was a construction worker who had gotten injured. He was pulled off on to the side of the road and immediately the police officers and doctors from the medical campus, medical students ran over and started trying to help people in the cars. And someone on the side of the road had asked a police officer if they had heard any responses from the people inside the car and she shook her head and said no.

CABRERA: My goodness. We are getting reports from officials that there are multiple people who were killed in this incident. Did you see anybody trapped?

CAROSCO: The cars were completely crushed under. You could see some of the front car and just a lot of debris everywhere. One woman luckily made it alive. It had just nicked the back of her car and she rolled forward and was able to get out. I know they were able to pull one person out of the car and they started performing CPR right on the street. But other than that, I didn't see anybody else.

CABRERA: What more can you tell me about this area and this bridge?

CAROSCO: This area is a heavily trafficked area. FIU runs parallel to it. The 109 building, which is a dormitory for the students, is right in front of where the crash happened. A lot of pedestrians, a lot of students. Thank god, it's spring break. That reduced the amount of traffic. But typically, it's like its own little city here. It's not uncommon for a lot of people to be here.

CABRERA: Wow! Stay with me if you will, Isabella.

I have a statement from Florida International University, who just tweeted out this: "Shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU Sweetwater Pedestrian Bridge. We're still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information. We're working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene. We'll share updates as we have them."

What's going through your mind right now, Isabella?

CAROSCO: Quite frankly, I'm lucky to be alive. That could have easily been me and my boyfriend under that bridge had we not turned right and decided to stay at the light and gone a different direction, or if we were stuck behind another car. We were right under that bridge.

And my heart is broken and saddened. All the people affected by this. I'm absolutely in shock that this could happen.

CABRERA: Oh, my goodness. You said you saw someone giving CPR. What else did you see?

CAROSCO: They pulled a construction worker off. He had been hurt in the mouth. He was bleeding. He seemed very confused. They were asking him his name. He said he was fine. He said the only thing that hurt was his mouth. They stripped him off his clothes, put him on a stretcher and were able to take him off. But he seemed -- he seemed OK. Other than that, the only other thing was the person they were giving CPR, but (INAUDBLE).

CABRERA: Isabella, how are you connected to the campus and this area? Are you a student?

CAROSCO: I'm a senior at the University of Miami, but my boyfriend is a student at FIU. Because it was spring break, he had some time off to make an interview with a professor, out of all days and out of all times. We drove over here for him to do it. And, yes. I've taken class here before at this campus. I have lots of friends at this campus. I grew up in Miami. So I have lots of friends in this community.

CABRERA: I'm so sorry, Isabella. And thank you for sharing what you have seen.

When you talk about the cars that were underneath the rubble, do you have any sense of just how many may have been underneath there?

CAROSCO: I saw about five or six that were completely crushed. It was hard to tell because there were some cars behind it. I don't know if they had gotten crushed as well. From what I saw, completely crushed by the bridge five or six, that I could count. There could have been more that were stuck under that I wasn't able to see.

CABRERA: As we look, they're continuing to work around the scene it looks like. We got word from the Miami-Dade Fire Tactical Response Team that they're doing right now is trying to secure the structure as they continue to search for potential patients.