People desperate to find out whether relatives are among victims of FIU bridge collapse

People searching for loved ones should call 305-348-3481

By Samantha Bryant - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Ian Margol - Reporter, Andrew Perez - Reporter

SWEETWATER, Fla. - People are still desperately trying to confirm whether their relatives were among those injured or killed in the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse a day after the incident took place.

"You call the hospital and his name is not there. You call Red Cross, and his name is not there," Carol Fraga said.

Fraga said trying to stay positive is the hardest part of the ordeal for her.

She and her husband, Jorge Fraga, said they received a call from a friend after the collapse saying that Jorge Fraga's uncle, Rolando Fraga, 60, had not been heard from since noon Thursday.

"I want to find out for sure if it's him out there," Jorge Fraga said. "They saw the car -- his Cherokee. We don't know exactly his whereabouts. He got missed 12 o'clock on. It seems it could be him, but (we're) not sure."

The Fragas drove down from West Palm Beach to FIU's Student Academic Success Center, trying to get an update or any information that would lead them to their loved one.

"It's something I never thought would happen to my family or to me. It was a bit of a shock," Carol Fraga said. 

"So many people lost their lives, and now injured. I think the city's got to do something about it," Jorge Fraga said.

Authorities confirmed Friday that an FIU student was among the deceased, but did not provide the victim's identity. 

Orlando Duran later told El Nuevo Herald that his daughter, Alexa Duran, was the student killed in the accident. 

"We are truly saddened to hear that. We have not yet been able to confirm whether the student was actually a resident of Sweetwater, but we are truly saddened that there is a student that has lost their life," Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said. 

A man who was riding in the same SUV as Alexa Duran was taken to the hospital, but is expected to be OK. 

Catalino Collazo told Local 10 News that he is beyond thankful that his daughter, Katrina Collazo, survived the accident.

According to Collazo, his daughter's car was hit by falling concrete and was practically cut in half. 

He said she was taken to the hospital and is now resting at home. 

An employee from VSL Structural Technologies said they lost an employee and two others are still hospitalized. The employee said they oversee the installation of their concrete supports, but were not involved in the testing of the bridge that was being conducted Thursday. 

Chelsea Brownfield posted on Instagram that she was still waiting to hear whether her husband, Brandon Brownfield, was killed in the bridge collapse.

"Tonight will be the longest night of my life," she wrote 11 hours after the collapse. "My girls have not been told about this situation. Although, they are very smart and will figure it out pretty soon that something is wrong. 

"I have no idea what I need or what anyone can do. I've never been in this situation before. If you feel the need to do anything, please pray that my best friend is alive and hanging on until help can reach him. Many thanks to those of you who have already helped my family today since I received the call."

Jose Mejia, a former candidate for Sweetwater commissioner, tweeted Friday morning that he was on his way to the scene and would ask authorities whether Brandon Brownfield was on the list of survivors. 

GoFundMe page has been created to help the Brownfield family no matter how the situation turns out.

Several people who were injured in the accident remain at Kendall Regional Medical Center. 

The hospital's trauma director said 10 people were initially taken to the hospital, but one died. Authorities said five others were pronounced dead at the scene, bringing the death toll to six.

Authorities believe there are still other unidentified victims who remain trapped under the rubble.   

Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said they are working to remove them quickly, but are trying to be as careful as possible.

"Our priority -- the most critical thing -- is to get to the victims and take them to the proper place so their families can have burial and ceremonies they want to have," he said. 

A woman who survived the bridge collapse posted photos of her damaged car on Twitter.

The bridge collapsed on top of the backseat of her car, sparing her life.

"There's no doubt in my mind that God gave me a second chance at life today. Every day is truly a gift. Don't take advantage of being alive," Emily Joy wrote. 

Miami-Dade police said a family reunification center has opened at FIU's main campus in Room 100 inside the Student Academic Success Center, which is located in front of the bookstore. People are asked to access the campus through 107th Avenue and 16th Street. 

Anyone in need of assistance in finding the center or who believes they might have a relative there is asked to call 305-348-3481.

Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg spoke with Miami-Dade police victims advocate Barbie Brewer, who said she had been working through the night to help families find their loved ones.

"They're in grief. You know, they're in disbelief, they're hopeful, they're emotional. They just want to believe that their family members are still alive. That's the best I can tell you," she said.

Brewer became emotional while speaking about the families, saying she hopes "they get peace in their hearts."

"I'm sorry. I've been with them all night long. It's very emotional," she said through tears. 

The Zeta Beta Tau fraternity has created a GoFundMe page to help all victims of the tragedy and their families. The fraternity said proceeds will be divided among the families.

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