ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Officials in Miami have just announced that at least four people are dead after a pedestrian walkway collapsed today. Construction crews had just started to install the bridge last weekend. It was intended to give students at Florida International University a safe way to cross a busy road. Here's Senator Marco Rubio tonight at a press conference.
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MARCO RUBIO: I believe it was just Saturday where it was unveiled - a tremendous amount of excitement and pride. It was one of those things people would always see and remember the school about. So to see it and - on the ground there today and underneath it the lives of those who've lost their lives as a result of this and those who have been injured is just so tragic.
SHAPIRO: Now federal and state officials are investigating to try to find out what went wrong and how many more people may have died. For more, let's turn now to Tim Padgett at Miami member station WLRN, who is on the scene. Hi, Tim.
TIM PADGETT, BYLINE: Hello.
SHAPIRO: This bridge was not yet open to the public. So describe who the victims in this collapse were.
PADGETT: The victims unfortunately were people in their cars who were at a red light underneath the bridge. They were eastbound on SW 8th Street, which is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Miami. It runs from downtown Miami all the way out through the Everglades. And the only fortunate thing is that because of this red light, there was no traffic on the other side of the street. But there were about eight cars as a result of this red light that were crushed underneath this 950-ton bridge as it imploded.
SHAPIRO: I've seen those images of just crumpled cars. Have authorities been able to get underneath and get a full count of those inside, or could the number of dead go up?
PADGETT: I'm confident that unfortunately the number of dead will go up. We were surprised actually that they gave us this early fatality count. You have eight cars, as I said, still under there, and you have a tremendously delicate and unstable situation with regards to the concrete. You have cranes out there, you know, gingerly trying to lift this so that rescue dogs and cameras and other sound detectors can get in that awful mass of rubble to find anyone who might still be alive there.
They did take nine people to the hospital who were injured sort of outside of the main implosion of the bridge - two of them apparently in extremely critical condition. The others look like they'll be OK. But the main concern obviously is the people who are trapped in those eight cars directly underneath the bridge.
SHAPIRO: At this early stage, is there any information about what might have brought this bridge down?
PADGETT: No. There's a lot of speculation. There were reports that there were construction workers on top of the bridge who may have been conducting - and this is something that both the university and government officials acknowledge tonight - that these workers may have been conducting some sort of stress test earlier in the day on the bridge. But there's no indication yet as to whether any of that could have resulted in a tragedy like this.
SHAPIRO: Just in our final seconds, in terms of accountability, is there anything known about the construction, who was building it, who might have been responsible?
PADGETT: Yes. Unfortunately MCM Construction, which was the head of this project - there have been some problems in the past, including lawsuits here in Miami-Dade County, and that's obviously going to be pursued.
SHAPIRO: Tim Padgett of member station WLRN in Miami covering this bridge collapse for us, thanks so much.
PADGETT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.