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NTSB Blames Engineering Firm for 2018 FIU Bridge Collapse


Construction accidents occur everyday. Few make national headlines. One exception was the March 15, 2018, collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami. Known as the FIU Sweetwater UniversityCity pedestrian bridge, it was constructed to connect the FIU campus to nearby student housing. The construction project, which cost over $14 million, was overseen by the University itself rather than the Florida Department of Transportation.

On March 13, 2018, the lead engineer for the bridge discovered and reported cracks at the north end of its span. At the time, the engineer believed this was a problem that could be fixed once installation of the bridge was completed. Two days later, at 9 a.m. on March 15, an FIU employee heard a “whip cracking” sound coming from under the bridge span. A few hours after that, at 1:46 p.m., the 174-foot bridge fractured and the 950-ton span dropped approximately 18 feet, killing 6 people, injuring 10 other individuals, and crushing several cars.

NTSB Cites Design Errors, Lack of State Oversight

In October 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced the results of investigation into the FIU bridge collapse. The NTSB determined that “load and capacity errors made FIGG Bridge Engineers, Inc.,” the company that designed the bridge, was the “probable cause” of the collapse. The Board also cited a lack of overall “design guidance” regarding “redundancy in concrete truss bridges,” and recommended that such standards be adopted.

Here is a brief overview of the NTSB’s findings:

  • FIGG “incorrectly believed” its bridge design was “redundant.” In fact, FIGG used a “nonredundant” design that “provided only a singular load path.” This lack of redundancy meant that when part of the bridge failed, the entire structure collapsed.
  • FIGG’s engineers “made significant design errors in the determination of loads,” in effect underestimating the demands that would be placed on “critical portions” of the FIU bridge.
  • While concrete is “susceptible to cracking,” the “rate of premature stress” observed before the collapse “was clear evidence” that a bridge failure was imminent.
  • The consulting engineer on the project “was not qualified by the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct an independent peer review” and in fact “failed to perform an adequate review” of FIGG’s design. Although FIU oversaw the project itself, the NTSB said the Department still “should have verified” the consulting engineer’s qualifications to perform the necessary independent peer review.
  • None of the parties overseeing the project–i.e., FIGG, FIU, or the engineers–“took the responsibility for declaring that the cracks were beyond any level of acceptability and did not meet Florida Department of Transportation standards.”

Speak with a Florida Contractor Representation Attorney Today

Several lawsuits have already been filed against various companies and individuals associated with the FIU bridge project. One contractor has already filed for bankruptcy and negotiated a multi-million settlement with the victims of the collapse and their families. Other lawsuits are likely to continue for several years.

When it comes to a major construction accident, sorting out the legal liability is never a simple task. That is why if you are a contractor, you need to work with an experienced Florida contractor representation lawyer who will fully and zealously represent your interests. Contact Linkhorst Law Firm, P.A., today at 561-626-8880 if you need legal advice on any construction-related matter.





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