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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mystery surrounds the collapse of the FIU bridge

Por DamianToo

According to El Nuevo Herald digital portal, a large white crane that was working on the pedestrian bridge of the Florida International University moved away from the site shortly after the collapse of the structure on Tamiami Trail. It was a disaster; there were concrete mountains, crushed vehicles and death.


It was not until after the authorities began to wonder where the crane and the operator were, who was there when the case occurred and who could help with the investigation. But the man and the crane had disappeared. "He left with the crane and nobody stopped him", said Carl Robertson, 73, a homeless man who lives near the bridge site. Robertson was there and saw the bridge fall. He was the first person to call 911 from his old cell phone.

Photos and video taken immediately after the March 15 incident show that the crane, rented to a Sweetwater firm called George's Crane, was still on the north side of the fallen bridge. When a Miami Herald photographer took an aerial photo of the disaster about an hour later, the crane was no longer there.

While the public tries to determine exactly what happened that day the crane has become a source of speculation for amateur detectives. Readers have asked the Herald what the crane was doing and where it went. In the absence of official explanations, some have even wondered if the crane tripped over the 950-ton bridge and that caused catastrophe. Moreover, what happened to the crane operator?

This is what is known: the police do not seem to believe that the operator fled the scene or caused the collapse, which independent engineers suggest was the result of structural and design failures. Police say that the crane operator, not identified so far, went a short distance with the team and returned to offer help, but it is not clear how long he was there.

The crane was used to hoist a device to adjust the internal steel supports at about the same time the bridge collapsed, at 1:47 p.m. Robertson was within walking distance.

Within minutes of collapsing the bridge, Robertson said, the crane operator came out of the cab to untie a yellow ribbon that the FIU and Sweetwater police had tied to the machine. Then he started the crane and left Tamiami Trail to the west.

"I did not think about that until later that day", Robertson said of the crane's demise. Although he was the first to call 911, the police recordings show, the authorities never formally interviewed him.

After the Herald last week published an article about the fact that FIU engineers discovered potentially troublesome cracks on the bridge days before the collapse, Robertson called reporters to retell his story, and ask if anyone knew what had happened to the crane and the operator.

A lawyer from George's Crane (who rents hydraulic cranes up to 170 tons) offered an explanation to the Herald. Far from fleeing, the operator needed to remove the heavy equipment from the site, said attorney Bryant Blevins, because rescuers were arriving at the scene. "Emergency vehicles needed access", said Blevins. "They arrived very quickly after the collapse, at that time; I had to move the crane."

So, said Blevins, the crane operator took the equipment out of the place and took it 30 blocks north to the George's Crane yard in Sweetwater. The crane stayed there. Whatever has happened, the behavior of the operator is strange, and that bothers several lawyers involved in the case.