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Minneapolis Bridge Recovery Efforts Put on Hold Because of Heavy Rain

Aug 14, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Treacherous conditions have delayed the search for victims of the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse.  Heavy rains from storms last night elevated water levels in the Mississippi River and quickened currents that had already been posing a challenge to the Navy divers helping to recover victims from the I-35 W Bridge collapse.  Four people are still missing and presumed dead in the wake of the tragedy, which killed nine others and injured 100.

This was the third day in a row that heavy storms had hampered recovery efforts.  No one could say when the divers will be able to return to the wreckage of the Minneapolis Bridge.  The absence of the divers, however, means that contractors can use cranes to lift heavy debris from the Mississippi, something that is too risky with rescue workers in the water.  The Hennepin County Sherriff’s office said that crews were starting to pull away concrete and rebar.  When the divers finally return, they might be able to locate missing victims who had been trapped under such debris.

Four people are still missing and presumed dead in the collapse of the I-35 W Bridge.  Those individuals are Christine Sacorafas, 45; Vera Peck, 50; Scott Sathers, 29; and Greg Jolstad, 45.  

The Minneapolis Bride collapsed into the Mississippi River at 6:05 p.m. on August 1.  It was the height of rush hour, and hundreds of cars were backed up across the span of the bridge, one of Minneapolis’ busiest.   Dozens of vehicles and hundreds of people fell sixty feet into the gorge below.

No cause for the I-35 W Bridge collapse has been determined at this time.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has 19 investigators working on the case, but it could be a year or more before they issue findings.  Investigators are said to be casting a suspicious eye on construction that had been taking place on the Minneapolis Bridge prior to the collapse.   Reports also indicated that NTSB investigators might have found a design flaw in the steel gusset plates that were used to bind the bridge trusses together.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) is scheduled to release preliminary designs of a replacement for the I-35 W Bridge sometime today.  MNDOT has said that it wants to “fast track” the new bridge so that it can be operational by the end of 2008.    MNDOT has scheduled two hearings this week regarding the new bridge.  The first on Wednesday will be before a joint hearing of the state House and Senate transportation committees.  The second on Thursday will take public comments on the new design.  


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