Sixth victim of FIU bridge collapse identified as cleanup winds down

'The coming days are going to be excruciating,' victim's wife says

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

SWEETWATER, Fla. - The sixth and final victim in last week's deadly Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse has been identified as Brandon Brownfield, his wife said Sunday.

"The coming days are going to be excruciating, as we dig deep to find the strength we need to heal,"  Chelsea Brownfield said in a Facebook post. "Please keep us in your prayers, as I now have to find the words and the answers to tell my girls that their daddy is not coming home."

Brownfield, a father of three who worked in the crane industry, was driving home from work when the bridge collapsed on Thursday. Ryan Lee, a friend who created a GoFundMe.com page for the family, said Brownfield and his wife had just bought a home in Homestead.

Chelsea and Brandon Brownfield

Late Saturday, rescue crews pulled the final bodies and cars from the rubble of the 950-ton bridge at Southwest Eighth Street near Southwest 109th Avenue.

Although authorities had feared the death toll would go up as rescuers pulled away the rubble, Miami-Dade County Police Director Juan Perez said six people were found in the debris.

"I believe that is the final count," Perez said. "This ends with a tragedy of six. ... We are pretty confident that no one is left."

On Saturday, police identified the other five victims as Alberto Arias, 53, Navaro Brown, 37, Alexa Duran, 18, Rolando Fraga, 60, and Oswald Gonzalez, 57.

"They had to break this thing into little pieces to get it off my niece," Joe Smitha, Alexa Duran's uncle, said of the collapsed bridge. 

Eight people are still being treated at Kendall Regional Medical Center after being pulled from the rubble.

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board was on the scene of the collapse collecting evidence this weekend as more details emerged that warnings about the bridge had gone unheeded. Investigators said the bridge collapsed as workers were conducting a stress test.

An engineer on the project left a voice mail that warned the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) about cracks on the bridge before the collapse, but the official who received the message was out of town and didn't open the message until a day after the collapse. 

 

 

The state has sought to distance itself from the project, saying that it was an FIU project.

However, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stressed on Saturday that FDOT was a major player in the construction of the bridge. 

Rubio said the local municipality and FIU didn't have the in-house capacity to manage a project of this magnitude and were partnered with an agency that could.

"In this case, $16 million was given, and FDOT was the managing entity for the purpose of the funding," Rubio said.

Matt Morgan, an Orlando lawyer, said on Twitter that he planned to file a civil suit related to the bridge collapse on Monday. 

"It is imperative we act quickly to secure critical documentation and data," Morgan said.

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