Miami-Dade police confirm 4 victims in FIU bridge collapse

Authorities recovered 3 bodies from debris Saturday

By Roy Ramos - Reporter, Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor, Troy Blevins - Graham Media Group

SWEETWATER, Fla. - Miami-Dade County Police have confirmed the identities of four of at least six people who were killed after a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed on Thursday.

Police identified Rolando Fraga, 60, Oswald Gonzalez, 57, Alberto Arias, 53, and Navaro Brown, 37, among the victims on Saturday. A fifth victim, 18-year-old Alexa Duran, was identified by her family.

The identity of the sixth victim has not been released. Authorities have cautioned that the death toll could rise.

Crews worked throughout Saturday and into the night to recover the bodies of lives lost in the bridge collapse.

"The only time we paused was for a moment of silence before removing the victims," Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said.

The bodies of Fraga, Gonzalez and Arias were pulled from debris on Saturday along with their vehicles.

Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp said Fraga's gold Jeep Cherokee and Gonzalez and Arias' white Chevy truck along with two other vehicles had been pulled from the rubble.

Just after 6 p.m., police said a third vehicle had been freed. It will be towed to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's office.

Three cars remain underneath the debris, Kemp said.

"We believe that everyone that we were looking for has been removed," Perez said.

Miami-Dade police said they will still carefully search through the rubble before clearing the roadway from debris and reopen it to traffic.

Brown, a construction worker, was pulled from the site on Thursday and was rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.

Authorities were working to free the bodies of Duran and the sixth victim on Saturday. Perez said crews were expected to be finished by the end of the day.

Friends on Facebook mourned Gonzalez and Arias and talked about their generosity.

"They opened their beautiful home to me for my first born's first birthday and made it memorable with the location and decorations. It’s sad to see how their lives was taken away," Gladys Mata said. "Prayers to all the victims and their families."

Fraga's family had traveled from West Palm Beach to Southwest Miami-Dade County to search for him, but they had feared he was among the dead.

“His family will miss him terribly, and we love him so much!” his family said in a statement.

Also on Saturday, the National Transportation Safety Board said it had identified several pieces of the bridge that the agency wants collected as evidence in its investigation.

NTSB said its investigators were continuing to gather documents about the design, construction and inspection of the bridge.

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg released the following statement Saturday:

"Dear FIU family,

"Our hearts break for the victims of the bridge collapse. Lives have been lost. Futures and families shattered.

"I have met family members and friends of the victims. My heart goes out to them. There is nothing I can say to ease their pain but we are putting our arms around them and doing everything in our power to support them.

"Even as we grieve, we all have an interest in getting to the bottom of what happened. This effort is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in a full and comprehensive investigation. FIU is cooperating fully with this investigation and working closely with government authorities.

"We are also forever grateful to the first responders – including some of our own doctors, students and others who rushed to the scene – and the dozens of others who came to assist. I am particularly moved by the men and women who have worked around the clock to recover the victims.

"It will take time for our community to heal.

"As a first step, on Monday, we will have a moment of silence at 1:47 p.m. Please join us wherever you are."

The bridge, which was to connect the FIU campus with the city of Sweetwater, was set to open next year. Using modular construction methods, the main span was assembled off-site and moved into place last weekend like a piece of a puzzle to avoid closing traffic on Eighth Street.

FIU touted it as the largest pedestrian bridge in the nation to ever use the innovative method. When the bridge collapsed, the tall tower that was designed to hold the cables attached to the platform had not been installed.

COMPLETE COVERAGE

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