Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department personel and other rescue units work at the scene where a pedestrian bridge collapsed a few days after it was built. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI (FOX 13) - After a pedestrian bridge near Florida International University collapsed, the Miami fire chief said four people were found dead in the rubble, but the death toll has increased to at least six as of Friday morning, including at least one FIU student.
The pedestrian bridge, just installed over the weekend, came crashing down on a South Florida highway Thursday afternoon atop of several vehicles.
Fire Chief Dave Downey said at a news briefing Thursday evening that nine victims were removed "early on" and taken to hospitals. But he did not elaborate on their conditions.
Late Thursday night, the rescue operation became a recovery operations, officials said at a news conference Friday.
Gov. Rick Scott also spoke to reporters, saying "everybody is working hard to make sure we rescue anyone who can be rescued." The Florida governor adds that an investigation will get to the bottom of "why this happened and what happened." He adds that if anyone had done anything wrong, "we will hold them accountable."
The view from SkyFOX showed the smashed bridge laying across the lanes of Southwest Eighth Street, which is near Florida International University. As many as eight vehicles were underneath the debris, but crews at the scene initially struggled to reach them because of concerns that the structure could collapse further.
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The 950-ton bridge had been assembled by the side of the highway and moved into place Saturday to great fanfare, but was still months away from being open to the public.
The span stretched almost 200 feet to connect Florida International University with the city of Sweetwater.
It was not immediately known if any workers were on the bridge at the time it collapsed.
"We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information," a statement from FIU said.
Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott and senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson tweeted their sympathies, promising cooperation and investigations.
Sen. Rubio also sent a letter asking the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address the “bridge’s design, construction, and ultimate failure” while it conducts its investigation.
In the letter, Sen. Rubio says the Department of Transportation contributed some of the funding for the bridge, allowing FIU to move forward with construction.
"While I support federal dollars being used to support innovative technologies, these projects must meet the highest standards to ensure safety is paramount," Rubio said.
The bridge was part of a project to improve safety for students who walk to FIU's campus. Renderings on the school's website depicted a massive concrete structure with fans, picnic tables, and benches atop the bridge, which spans 174 feet over seven lanes of traffic below.
MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm who won the bridge contract, temporarily took its website down on Thursday. But an archived version of the website featured a news release touting the project.
"This our first Design-Build with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee. FIGG has designed iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston's famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge."
After the collapse, FIGG issued a press release saying the firm was "stunned."
“Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident," FIGG Engineering wrote. "We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
Stay with FOX for any updates.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.