There was cracking seen on the Florida bridge project before it collapsed on Thursday, March 15th, in Miami. The Washington Post is reporting that the lead engineer on the project reported a crack via a voicemail that wasn’t retrieved until the day after the Florida bridge collapsed.
Not a “Safety” Concern
The company in charge of the design portion of the project is a private contractor, FIGG Bridge Engineers. It’s clear from the voicemail, left at the Florida Department of Transportation, that the lead engineer, Denney Pate, did not consider the crack an immediate safety issue. He just said it would need to be repaired.
FIGG Bridge Engineers promised that they are “carefully examining the steps that our team has taken in the interest of our overarching concern for public safety.” The company added they believe that Pate was making an “evaluation was based on the best available information at that time.”
The message was not heard until Friday because the Florida Department of Transportation official to whom the voicemail was directed to was out of the office on assignment.
Just before the collapse, a consultant to the department met with members of the FIGG team. According to the article, there was no mention of safety concerns, even though they were discussing the recent crack that appeared on the Florida bridge project.
While FIGG designed the pedestrian bridge, the company in charge of the construction was Munilla Construction Management (MCM). MCM is a family owned business that has done extensive work for the state government and is a major contributor to politicians in the Miami-Dade County.
Several of its projects have come under scrutiny from safety officials. It has been involved in dozens of lawsuits over the last decade, but for much smaller issues than a structural failure of this kind.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, “The responsibility to identify and address life-safety issues and properly communicate them is the sole responsibility of the design and build team.” They continue to say that the teams, “never communicated a life-safety issue.”
MCM released a statement saying in part, “MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way.”
Tragic Loss of Life
Right now, it appears six people have been killed because of the collapse and crews are now working to remove cars from the wreckage. There could still be more victims. The Florida bridge collapsed on to vehicles as they waited at a red light.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Highway Administration are now on the scene investigating, along with homicide detectives with the county police department.
A team of county prosecutors are also on hand.
To learn more about this case or report suspected fraud, contact Newman & Shapiro today!