Pittsburgh bridge collapses hours before Biden is scheduled to visit to discuss infrastructure

A two lane snow-covered bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday (Friday night AEDT), prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 150 feet (46 meters) while others formed a human chain to help rescue several people from a dangling bus.
The collapse came hours before the US President Joe Biden should visit the city on a pre-planned trip to push for its $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes bridge maintenance.

There were minor injuries from the collapse but no fatalities, said authorities, who also said they had flown drones to make sure nobody was under collapsed sections.

A two-lane snow-covered bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday (Friday night AEDT), prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 150 feet while others formed a human chain to rescue several people from a dangling bus (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Fire Chief Darryl Jones said there were 10 “minor injuries” and three people were transported from the scene. None of the injuries are life-threatening, he said. Three or four vehicles were on the bridge when it collapsed, Jones said.

Sam Wasserman, a spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, said hours after the collapse that officials were evaluating the scene and a city search and rescue team was still combing the area for other possible victims.

He said most of the 10 people being checked for injuries were first responders who were being checked for exhaustion or because of the cold and snowy weather. Three people were taken to hospitals and none had life-threatening injuries, Wasserman said.

A two-piece, elongated Allegheny County Port Authority bus was on the bridge when it collapsed, with two passengers on board in addition to the driver, transit agency spokesman Adam Brandolph said. All three were safely picked up.

A Port Authority bus that was on a bridge when it collapsed Friday January 28, 2002 is seen in Pittsburgh’s East End. When the bridge collapsed, rescuers rappeled nearly 150 feet while others formed a human chain to rescue several people from the dangling bus. (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar) (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar)

About two hours after the collapse, Brandolph said one of the passengers was on another bus when the passenger began complaining of injuries and was taken to a hospital. The driver and passenger were not injured, according to Brandolph.

The bus had started its route in downtown Pittsburgh and headed to the suburban community of Braddock.

“Judging by the time of day, if that bus was going downtown, there probably would have been more people on the bus, and obviously there could have been a much, much worse situation,” Brandolph said.

The bus had seven or eight cameras and any footage they took of the collapse will be part of the investigation.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, USA, January 28, 2022
Vehicles that were on a bridge when it collapsed are seen Friday January 28, 2002 in Pittsburgh’s East End. When the bridge collapsed, rescuers rappeled nearly 150 feet while others formed a human chain to rescue several people from the dangling bus. (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar) (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar)

“We haven’t been able to review this footage yet, but we certainly hope to do so very soon,” Brandolph said.

A strong smell of natural gas was reported in the area, police said, later adding that a gas line had been cut in the area.

“Other than that lingering noise, we could start smelling gas and that was the really scary thing, then at that smell we both said let’s get dressed and get out of here,” said Lyn Krynski, whose home is the closest to the bridge.

“It sounded like a weather phenomenon more than anything,” said Douglas Gwilym, who was shoveling about an inch of snow when he heard the sound. “It was all I had to compare it to — it was this weird whooshing sound.”

At the scene of the collapse, Lt. gov. John Fetterman it “just a horrible, surreal scene”.

“I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments,” Fetterman said.

The bridge, which collapsed Friday, had an overall health rating of “poor,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website, which tracks bridges across the state. (Ed Gainey/ Pittsburgh City Hall)

The scenery was reminiscent of the aftermath of an earthquake. There was a large crack at the end where the bus was, he said. Also, a car was parked upside down in front of the bus.

The Red Cross has been contacted to help the victims and residents are being asked to avoid the area.

According to Amie Downs, a county spokeswoman, the Allegheny County Police Department was notified of a partial bridge collapse Friday just after 6 a.m. (10 p.m. AEDT).

There were four vehicles on the bridge at the time of the collapse, Downs said, and only minor injuries were reported, including the driver of an articulated bus and two passengers.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, USA, January 28, 2022
The collapse came hours before US President Joe Biden was due to visit the city on a pre-planned trip to push for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes bridge maintenance (AP Photo/Gene J .Puskar)

Jeremy Habowski told CNN he feels lucky to be alive after surviving the collapse. He and other drivers were unable to stop in time after the bridge gave way, he said.

“The scariest part was definitely going over the edge because there was a gap and my car hit the ground,” he told CNN. His car and others now stand on the remains of the bridge.

When things calmed down, Habowski checked out another driver, he said. He then climbed up the hill to try to stop other drivers from driving into the rubble.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, USA, January 28, 2022
There were minor injuries from the collapse but no fatalities, said authorities, who also said they flew drones to make sure nobody was under collapsed sections (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“It was a lot to process,” he told CNN.

Greg Barnhisel lives about a quarter mile from the bridge collapse site, so he and his wife walked to check it out, he told CNN.

“We didn’t hear the collapse,” he said. “When we arrived at the collapse site, the roar and smell of the broken gas line was overwhelming.”

A commuter bus stands upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 28, 2022.
A commuter bus stands upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 28, 2022. Police reported the span came down on Forbes Avenue across Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park around 6 a.m. There were no initial reports of injuries, Pittsburgh Public Safety said on Twitter. (Greg Barnhisel via AP) (Greg Barnhisel via AP)
Another local resident, Wendy Straw, to the CNN subsidiary KDKA that she heard the collapse, but thought it sounded like “a giant snowplow pushing down a rough asphalt surface with no snow.”

“It’s very scary,” she said. “Gosh, all those ambulances and fire engines and whatnot. Just the thought of the bridge collapsing is a very frightening prospect. I cross the bridge all the time.”

“Luckily the schools were delayed two hours because of the weather,” said the Lt. gov. Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman told CNN New day.

“So traffic was lighter than on a normal day, but it’s surreal to see that bridge.”

A commuter bus stands upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 28, 2022.
The schools were delayed two hours due to the weather, which reduced traffic across the bridge at that hour (Greg Barnhisel via AP)

When asked about the collapse on the same day of the president’s visit, Fetterman, a Democrat, said, “This is a terrible way of underscoring how critical our infrastructure needs are in this country.”

Biden is aware of the collapse, the White House said in a statement, and plans to continue his journey.

“The President is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time,” the statement said.

Built in 1970, the steel bridge transports around 14,500 vehicles per day, according to a 2005 estimate.

A commuter bus stands upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 28, 2022.
Biden is aware of the collapse, the White House said in a statement, and plans to continue his journey. (Greg Barnhisel via AP)

Wasserman said the last inspection was in September, but the report is not immediately available.

However, an inspection of the city-owned bridge in September 2019 found the deck and superstructure to be in poor condition, according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory.

A chart on the State Department of Transportation’s website lists the bridge’s overall condition as poor, which the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says means “deterioration of the primary structural elements has progressed.”

Reference-www.nach-welt.com

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