Pittsburgh bridge collapse: Search and rescue crews continue to look for potential victims

PITTSBURGH — A bridge collapsed early Friday in Pittsburgh, sending multiple vehicles into a ravine and leaving 10 people with minor injuries, WPXI reported.

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The incident happened on Fern Hollow Bridge near Forbes and Braddock avenues hours before President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit the city to talk about infrastructure, according to officials and WPXI. The area is near Frick Park and at the border of Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood, WPXI reported.

Update 8 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor told WPXI that it will likely take at least two years to rebuild Fern Hollow Bridge. Gov. Tom Wolf issued a disaster proclamation Friday night to ensure the bridge is quickly reconstructed, the news station reported.

“With the Fern Hollow Bridge seeing more than 14,000 cars daily, it’s critical that we act quickly to reconstruct it so that commerce can continue, and life is not interrupted,” said Gov. Wolf. “This declaration allows us to support the county in getting to work quickly, making funding available, and reducing red tape or other barriers to completion.”

Biden said Friday that the bridge collapse at Frick Park was “simply unacceptable.” He added that Pennsylvania will get $1.6 billion to fix and repair bridges.

“The next time, we don’t need headlines saying someone was killed,” he said, according to WPXI. “We saw today when a bridge is in disrepair it can literally threaten lives. We’re going to rebuild that bridge.”

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Update 4 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Search and rescue crews from Lancaster and Gettysburg traveled across the state to help try to find any potential victims of Friday’s bridge collapse. They brought dogs — a yellow lab and two shepherds — to find anyone who could be trapped. One of the dogs specializes in finding human remains, WPXI reported.

Three of the people hurt in the collapse and who needed to be taken to a hospital are still being treated are now listed in fair condition. One person was treated and released.

Update 3 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Biden said after seeing the wreckage of the Fern Hollow Bridge:

“It’s incredible. I mean, this is -- first of all, these guys deserve an incredible amount of credit going down here. And while this was going on, they tell me the gas leak was -- explain what you said to me about the noise,” Biden said, according to WPXI. “It’s astounding. You all realize -- I’ve been coming to Pittsburgh a long time and as a former Pennsylvanian. But I didn’t realize there are literally more bridges in Pittsburgh than in any other city in the world. Did you know? More than in Venice. I mean, I knew there are a lot of bridges. And we’re going to -- they’re going to fix them all. Not a joke. This is going to be a gigantic change. And there’s 43,000 nationwide. And we’re sending the money.”

Biden had announced a program to either fix or replace bridges through the bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress passed in November, CNN reported.

Update 1:25 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Biden stopped at the site before heading to his scheduled appearance in Pittsburgh.

Biden landed in Pittsburgh to tour Carnegie Mellon’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and to speak about manufacturing, infrastructure and other topics. The event was scheduled prior to Friday’s bridge collapse, which is now shining a light on the issues facing the country involving its roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Update 12:25 p.m. EST Jan. 28: The Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief Darryl Jones called Friday’s bridge collapse a “surprise.”

“We do have people go out and inspect the bridges. As you know, Pittsburgh is the city of bridges. We have a lot of them, and they’re routinely inspected,” Jones told CNN. “So, this one caught everyone by surprise this morning.”

The driver of the bus that teetered on the collapsed bridge spoke with a reporter from our sister station WPXI. Daryl Luciani said he felt “banged up” and was taken to a hospital to be checked out.

Update 11:25 a.m. EST Jan. 28: The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the bridge collapse.

The bridge, according to WPXI, was last inspected in September and received a poor rating at the time. It had a weight restriction of 26 tons and 7% truck traffic among the 14,000 vehicles that traveled the span every day.

It was built in 1970 and was 447 feet long, made of steel, according to a state website.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate, said that the country’s infrastructure is failing.

“This collapse is just the latest in a long line of preventable, man-made disasters that prove what so many of us in Pennsylvania and around the country have been saying for years: Our infrastructure is failing our people. Our roads and bridges, which are supposed to connect us and bring us together, are increasingly putting us in danger,” he said, according to CNN.

WPXI reported that Biden may visit the bridge collapse site during his trip to Pittsburgh Friday afternoon.

Update 9:41 a.m. EST Jan. 28: The families that had to be evacuated from their homes because of a gas leak have been allowed to return after a gas leak, caused by the collapse has been stopped and gas service has been restored to the properties, WPXI reported.

>>Related: Photos: Bridge collapse near Pittsburgh’s Frick Park

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said that Biden’s visit on the same day as the collapse will highlight the challenges that they are facing because of crumbling infrastructure.

“This bipartisan infrastructure law, it is critical to southwest Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. We know we have bridges that we need to take care of. We’re finding out now when the last inspection was and everything. But with him coming today, to talk about this infrastructure bill, to discuss why this funding is so important, today is significant,” Gainey said, according to CNN.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is from the Pittsburgh area and is running for the U.S. Senate, was on the scene shortly after the collapse. He spoke on CNN Friday morning, saying, “It’s surreal, the entire span of the bridge has collapsed into the park and into the walking trail below.”

He called the bridge “a vital artery” for the area, CNN reported.

Update 9:13 a.m. EST Jan. 28: Search and rescue teams are being deployed to make sure that no one is trapped under the bridge, WPXI reported.

Ten people were hurt with three having to be taken to a local hospital. All injuries were considered minor. A couple of first responders slipped and fell at the scene.

Crews had to rappel down the hillside to help people who were about 100 feet below the top of the ravine.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said his administration is monitoring the situation and is ready to support the efforts as needed.

Some schools in the area transitioned to virtual learning because of the bridge collapse.

“Due to the impact of a bridge collapse in the East End and high call-offs among bus drivers, all K-5, K-8 and 6-8 and Special Schools will transition to remote learning. High schools and 6-12 schools will continue in-person learning. The District will still operate on a 2 hour delay schedule. Pittsburgh Public Schools transportation is canceled. There will be no Grab and Go meal service available today.”

Update 9:09 a.m. EST Jan. 28: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said via Twitter that Biden has been told of the collapse and the administration is in touch with state and local officials. The president, as of Friday morning, “will proceed with trip planned for today.”

Original story: No deaths have been reported in connection with the collapse, authorities said. Police, fire and emergency crews were working to remove people from the vehicles, including a handful of bus passengers – most of whom have been rescued, WPXI reported.

Witnesses initially reported “a strong smell of natural gas” in the area, according to WPXI. Crews were able to turn off the gas line, officials said.

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