'Sounded like a huge snowplow': 10 injured in Pittsburgh bridge collapse
A human chain was formed as crews rappelled about 150 feet down a ravine to rescue trapped passengers from vehicles and a city transit bus.
Four people were hospitalized with injuries after a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 28, hours before President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit the city to need for more infrastructure funding.
Emergency crews rescued 10 people from a transit bus and five other vehicles after a bridge collapsed early Friday morning in Frick Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sending the careening cars down into a ravine below. The incident happened just hours before President Joe Biden visited the city to press for greater infrastructure funding for the nation.
The collapse of the four-lane Fern Hollow Bridge that carries Forbes Avenue over Frick Park occurred at 6:39 a.m. local time in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods, city officials said. City Fire Chief Darryl Jones said rescuers had to rappel nearly 150 feet into a park ravine to reach people stranded in the dangling transit bus and in the cars, including at least one that landed on its roof.
"They rappeled down using ropes and helped firefighters already on the scene. They did like a daisy chain with hands just grabbing people and pulling them up," Jones said. The rescue operation took about two hours, according to city officials, although FEMA's Urban Search & Rescue unit arrived soon after on the scene, using search dogs and drones to comb the area looking for any pedestrians or joggers who may have been in the area below.
The chief told reporters that of the 10 people injured, four adults were taken to two city hospitals, and the UPMC hospital system said that all four were in fair condition as of Friday afternoon.
The bus, an articulated, 60-foot-long transit bus of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and five vehicles were crossing the bridge at the time of the collapse, said Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph and city officials. Brandolph added that there were two passengers on the bus, in addition to the driver, at the time. One of the passengers was hospitalized.
"It sounded like a huge snowplow... pushing along the surface with no snow," Wendy Stroth told KDKA, "I didn't know what it was... It was very frightening."
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey shared dramatic aerial photos of the scene of the collapse on social media. The snow-covered bridge can be seen crumbled into mangled, twisted pieces of concrete.
Officials said it was unclear what caused the collapse of the bridge, which was constructed in 1970. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigative team to the scene today. Meanwhile, the 644-acre Frick Park, the city's largest, was ordered closed off to any visitors.
Listen to the 911 dispatch call on the bridge collapse, starting at the 24:27 mark:
Biden spoke about the deteriorating condition of the country's bridges and roadways during his afternoon visit to the bridge collapse site. The presidential motorcade traveled directly from the airport to the scene so Biden could survey the damage.
“The idea that we’ve been so far behind on infrastructure for so many years, it’s mind-boggling,” Biden said at the scene, according to the AP. As for the rest of the nation’s aging bridges, he pledged, “We’re gonna fix them all.” It just so happens that Biden initially had been scheduled to discuss and push for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes bridge maintenance. He later presented his full speech at a research and development hub in Pittsburgh's Hazelwood neighborhood.
There are “3,300 bridges here in Pennsylvania – some of which are just as old and in just as decrepit condition as that bridge was, including in Pittsburgh, the city of bridges," Biden said.
“We gotta move," Biden said, highlighting the projects that will receive funding through the infrastructure bill. "Next time, we don't need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses."
After 10 people were injured in a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, President Biden visited the site to speak about the country's infrastructure.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Gainey said he had spoken with the president on the phone earlier and thanked him for the White House's support.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had listed the bridge in “poor condition,” which means “poor, deterioration of primary structural elements has advanced.” The bridge was last inspected in September 2021, according to KUTV's Jade Elliott.
Social media users resurfaced a tweet from Dec. 2018 on Friday morning that showed a beam on the bridge's underside rusted through entirely. An incident report was made in 2018, but has subsequently been closed.
“This is a vital road, artery in our area,” Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor, D-Squirrel Hill, told KDKA-TV in a telephone interview. “This is a road that a lot of use in the East End, going around the tunnel. We’re looking at a couple-year closure here possibly.”
A light dusting of snow was recorded in the Pittsburgh region Friday morning and while the recent snowfall or weather has not been linked to the collapse, it did create some slick spots this morning. Many schools in the area even announced two-hour delays for the start of classes.
“This bipartisan infrastructure law is critical,” Gainey said. “At the end of the day it’s critical that we get this funding.”
State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, said he was out on the bridge this morning and was “marveling that through human ingenuity, the work of quick thinking first responders and luck, nobody was killed in this catastrophic collapse. We should be depending on investment, not luck.”
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman remarked that he was just on the bridge Thursday. “I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these critical investments.”
Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that the Fern Hollow Bridge was a two-lane structure. This article has been updated to reflect that it was a four-lane bridge.
MORE TO SEE:
For the latest weather news check back on AccuWeather.com. Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.Report a Typo