Builder of Florida bridge that collapsed also built Jordan Bridge, designed Lesner replacement


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There are local ties in the deadly Florida pedestrian bridge collapse.

FIGG Bridge Group out of Tallahassee, Florida, one of the builders of a pedestrian bridge that collapsed and killed at least four people Thursday in Miami, also built the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge and is the designer for the Lesner Bridge Replacement in Virginia Beach.

The construction of the Jordan Bridge almost went without a hitch, until an incident in June 2012.

That’s when Spencer Claycomb heard a huge noise.

“I heard a couple of loud bangs, and we turned around, and as I turned around, a large piece of concrete was dropping and all the workers on the large frame were jumping off and hanging by their harness and they were being pulled on top.”

What had happened: a pre-fab concrete section fell from the bridge during the installation process. It landed on the railroad tracks below.

On Friday, the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge’s general manager, Kevin Crum, sent 10 On Your Side this message:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by the terrible tragedy in Miami. The South Norfolk Jordan Bridge has had several regular, comprehensive inspections since it opened in 2012, which show the bridge is absolutely safe and structurally sound. The safety of our customers is the top priority for SNJB.”

In Virginia Beach, 10 On Your Side asked Chris Wojtowicz, the project manager for the Lesner Bridge Replacement, “Does Figg have your confidence?”

“Yes, they do,” said Wojtowicz. “They also provide engineering inspections for us as we are building this bridge. We want to make sure not only is the bridge designed, we want to make sure it is built to their design.”

Wojtowicz showed 10 On Your Side a page from FIGG’s bridge erection manual. The manual is a step by step guide for each and every segment.

“You don’t want to go out of order, because one, you don’t want to make it more dangerous for the men to erect the bridge, and two, you don’t want to cause extra work if you go out of sequence.”

FIGG’s job as the designer is to make sure the bridge is constructed to their design.

“I have great respect for FIGG,” Wojtowicz said. “There has been parts on this bridge that we have been out of tolerance by a half-an-inch, that was not acceptable. Our construction contractor had to fix it, there are no short cuts.”Related: Miami pedestrian bridge collapses, killing at least four, officials say

In Miami, emergency crews continue to search for people trapped underneath the bridge near the campus of Florida International University.

Fire crews say four people were found dead and nine others were recovered and taken to the hospital.

Hospital officials say most of the patients they’ve seen are stable, but at least two are critical.

A statement from Figg about the collapse says in part: “We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami. Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident.”

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