By GARY DETMAN, WPEC
MIAMI (WPEC) - Police said six people are now dead following the collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami.
Authorities made the announcement Friday morning. Police say the number of dead could climb as crews continue to search the bridge debris which is highly unstable.
The names of the victims have not been released.
The massive bridge collapsed around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The first fire crews on scene found eight vehicles crushed by the bridge, built as a walkway from the city of Sweetwater over eight lanes of highway to the FIU campus.
Doctors at Kendall Regional Medical Center said earlier the hospital received two patients in extremely critical condition.
One of the two critical patients arrived at the hospital in cardiac arrest, the other in a coma. The remaining victims had injuries ranging from abrasions to broken bones but no severe brain injuries, according to doctors at Kendall Regional.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tells WPEC they are securing the structure and continuing to search for victims.
Police brought in heavy equipment, cranes, and dogs as part of the intense search and rescue effort.
The NTSB said Thursday night a full go-team is being dispatched to the scene. They'll arrive late Thursday night and be on the ground first thing Friday morning.
Miami-Dade Police tell WPEC the first call about the collapse came in around 1:30 p.m.
Video from the TV helicopter crew shows a number of cars buried under the bridge and rescue crews navigating treacherous slabs of concrete and debris to find victims.
FIU police asked people to avoid the area between SW 117th Avenue and SW 107th Avenue on SW Eighth Street due to police activity in the area. Miami-Dade Police tell WPEC they are taking over the investigation.
Police and news crews had also been asked to keep their helicopters away from the scene so first responders could hear if any victims are pinned under the rubble.
Fire Rescue says it brought in additional technical rescue resources to the scene. They are not asking for doctors or nurses to respond.
"We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge. At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information. We are working closely with authorities and first responders on the scene," said FIU in a statement.
President Trump is monitoring the developments.
"Our brave first responders are working feverishly to save lives," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott traveled to the site and met with investigators and first responders. The governor promises a full investigation.
Images of the incident are streaming across social media, including a video from Gabriela Collazo who is above the scene.
FIU shared video of the bridge five days ago as crews moved it into place, calling it the first-of-its kind pedestrian bridge.
"FIU is about building bridges and student safety," wrote President Mark B. Rosenberg on Twitter.
The university president issued a new statement late Thursday, offering his condolences to the families and victims.
"Dear FIU Family,I am heartbroken at the news of the collapse of the pedestrian bridge on 8th Street and the resulting devastation. We send our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We are working with the appropriate agencies to assist in rescue efforts. As soon as we have further information, we will share it with you. Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers."
MCM, the company behind the project, issued a statement following the FIU bridge collapse.
"The MCM family’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. The new UniversityCity Bridge, which was under construction, experienced a catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life. MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."
MCM, according to its website, said the $9.3 million cable-stayed pedestrian bridge is its first design-build with FIGG Bridge Engineers. FIGG designed Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to MCM.
FIGG Engineering also issued a statement.
“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. We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is calling for answers after the bridge collapse. The senator requested the Department of Transportation look at the bridge's design, construction and failure. Rubio said there were federal dollars in the construction of the bridge through a grant in 2013.
"It is also my understanding that this bridge was constructed using the new Accelerated Bridge Construction method, and was installed this past Saturday in only six hours. While I support federal dollars being used to support innovative technologies, these projects must meet the highest standards to ensure safety is paramount."
Police set up a reunification zone at FIU at the Student Academic and Success Center. People should enter the campus from the entrance at SW 107th Avenue & 16th Street.