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Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Death Toll At Nine; Four Still Missing

Aug 13, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP Another victim of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse was recovered on Sunday, bringing the death toll from the tragedy to nine.  Four people are still missing and are presumed to be trapped beneath the wreckage of the I-35 W Bridge. One other person has been pulled from the river, but the medical examiner has not yet been able to identify those remains.

On Sunday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner identified the latest victim of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse to be pulled from the river as Richard Chit, 20.  Chit had Downs Syndrome and was traveling with his mother, Vera Peck, 50.  Peck is still missing.   

On Saturday, two other victims if the collapse,  Sadiya Sahal and her 2-year-old daughter, Hana Mohamed, were buried.   Sahal was taking her daughter to pick up friends when the I-35 W Bridge plummeted more than 60 feet into the Mississippi River.  More than 100 people attended the traditional Muslim funeral.

Four people remain unaccounted for as a result of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse.  The Hennepin County Medical Examiners office had requested dental records and DNA samples from the families of the missing to aid in identification of remains.  Navy divers are expected to return to the site of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse today to continue to search for victims.   Recovery efforts were delayed somewhat over the weekend, after heavy rains on Friday evening caused the level of the Mississippi River to rise.  

Of the 100 people injured in the collapse of the Minneapolis Bridge, seven are still hospitalized.  Four are listed in serious condition and three are still critical. One patient was released from the hospital over the weekend.

Work crews have removed 44 cars from the Mississippi River so far.  Over the weekend, a school bus that had been partially hanging from the collapsed I-35 W Bridge was removed as well.  That bus had carried 52 children, all of whom survived the collapse.  At least 100 vehicles had been on the Minneapolis Bridge at the time of the collapse.

The NTSB, which has been investigating the catastrophe, had no comments on the I-35 W Bridge collapse probe.  Last week, reports said that the investigation had found a possible design flaw in the steel gusset plates which bound the bridge’s trusses together.   Investigators were also taking a hard look at the construction that  was being done on the Minneapolis Bridge when it collapsed.  Last week, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters issued a statement to all other state transportation authorities cautioning them to carefully consider the extra weight placed on bridges similar to the I-35 W Bridge when they are undergoing repair or construction.  Several heavy vehicles and large piles of sand and gravel had been placed on the bridge when it fell into the Mississippi.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) was forging ahead with plans to replace the fallen Minneapolis Bridge.  On Monday, MNDOT said that it had already decided on a preliminary design for the new bridge, which they hope to have in place by the end of 2008.  While it  has given no details on the design,  MNDOT said it would begin taking public comments on the new 10-lane bridge this week.

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