Rescue workers search the site of a pedestrian bridge that collapsed days after it was installed over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami on Friday. The bridge, scheduled to open in 2019, was going to allow people to cross over the busy street to Florida International University. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
March 16 (UPI) -- At least six people died in the collapse of a pedestrian bridge on a college campus in Miami -- and that number could climb because there are still people missing, authorities said Friday.
The new bridge collapsed suddenly Thursday afternoon at Florida International University.
Video footage shows the bridge buckle suddenly and fall onto the road below. People are seen standing on the bridge when it collapses.
"Our primary concern is to remove all the cars and all the victims in a dignified manner and not compromise the investigation," Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp said at a news conference Friday morning.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez cautioned that the investigation was still in the early stages.
"Please do not jump to any conclusions," he said. "This is a homicide investigation. ... That means somebody died. It doesn't mean there are criminal charges looming."
"Is there a possibility of that? There is always the possibility," he added. "I've already read some headlines of 'possible criminal charges.' ... but we're not there yet."
Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said five died at the scene and one at a Miami hospital. Ten were hospitalized with injuries, and some were still unaccounted for.
"We know there are people missing," Perez said. "We can assume that they are in there but we cannot confirm identities of who's in there. So we're caught in a bad place right now."
On Friday, the father of 18-year-old FIU student Alexa Duran said his daughter was of the people killed when the bridge collapsed. Duran was driving her car under the bridge when it collapsed. Her friend Richard Humble, who was in the passenger seat, freed himself from the trapped car but was unable to get Duran out of the vehicle.
Police have not confirmed the identity of any victims and said the death toll could rise as workers wade through the debris of the crumbled bridge.
"None of them have been removed as of yet," Zabaleta said of the dead at the scene. "Only the six that have been confirmed are the only ones that we've been able to reach out to. However, they're saying 'at least', because there is a possibility, the sad possibility, that under the concrete there may be additional vehicles."
More than 100 rescue personnel worked through the night with the aid of special microphones and rescue dogs to look for additional survivors or injured. Officials are now calling it a recovery operation.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt III said a team of 15 specialists headed to Florida to investigate.
"We just want to know what occurred," Perez said. "What caused this collapse to occur and people to die."
FIU's campus was open Friday, and officials said the school was offering counseling to students, faculty and staff.
"The bridge was about collaboration, about neighborliness, about doing the right thing," FIU President Mark Rosenberg said in a statement. "Today, we're sad. All we can do is promise a very thorough investigation -- getting to the bottom of this."
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that he was "praying" for all those affected by the collapse.
"So tragic." Trump wrote. "Many brave First Responders rushed in to save lives. Thank you for your courage."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio visited the scene Thursday.
"The cables that suspend the Miami bridge had loosened & the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened," Rubio said. "They were being tightened when it collapsed today."
The 174-foot-long bridge was built as part of a $19.4 million project grant and was elevated in one piece on Saturday by MCM Construction and FIGG Engineering.
MCM was sued earlier this month for alleged shoddy construction of a bridge built at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.