I-35W bridge collapses
Star Tribune staff
Star Tribune staff
Last update: August 01, 2007 – 7:34 PM
The Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed during the evening rush hour Wednesday, dumping at least eight cars and a truck into the water and onto the land below, creating a horrific scene of damage, fire, smoke, injuries, frantic rescuers and terrified motorists.
It was not clear how many people might be hurt or killed, but witnesses said at least 20 cars were involved.
Multiple trauma victims -- some in critical condition -- have been taken to Hemmpein County Medical Center.
The crumpled green wreckage of the bridge lay on the east bank of the river, and a huge section of concrete roadway lay on the west bank. Down below in the river gorge, rescue workers scrambled to help people on the roadway that now lay in the gorge. Fires burned and black smoke rose billowed the wreckage.
Workers have been repairing the 40-year-old bridge’s surface as part of improvements along that stretch of the interstate.
Rescue workers were helping some people from cars in the river onto land.
People at the scene said the entire bridge collapsed, leaving part of the roadway submerged and part above water.
A number of people were walking around on the roadway that was not submerged.
Ramon Houge of St. Paul, was on his way home from work at Wells Fargo and was driving on the bridge when heard a rumbling noise, saw the ground collapse and cars go down. He said cars backed up as best they could and he parked in a construction zone and was finally able to turn around and drive off the bridge. “It didn’t seem like it was real,” he said. Traffic was bumper to bumper and hundreds of people would have been involved, he said, adding that he saw kids on a bus with blood on their faces.
Sarah Fahnhorst, who lives in an apartment a block away from the bridge, heard a huge thud and then “the entire building shook. It shook the ground.”
Emergency calls began flooding into Minneapolis' 911 center about people and cars dumped into the Mississippi River.
"Everybody's pretty much saying the same thing: That there's some people in the water" said Tashia Brown, a 911 operator.
She said one 911 caller said she could see the construction workers using a jackhammers when the bridge collapsed close to her car. "She saw it and she said she just gunned it and just made it out of there," Brown said.
Minneapolis police and fire, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota State Patrol and other agencies were responding.
Some callers were requesting ambulances, others said they had slight injuries but didn't know how to get off the bridge.
Amidst the rescue efforts, the Minnesota State Patrol said at 7 p.m. that the cause of the bridge collapse remained undetermined.
Traffic was being stopped at University Avenue from the North and Washington Avenue from the South.
The State Patrol was setting up a command post.
The arched bridge, which was built in 1967, rises about 64 feet above the river.
The collapse occurred at the end of rush hour, when cars were bumper to bumper in traffic, many trying to get to the Twins game, which was scheduled to be begin at 7:10 p.m. at the nearby Metrodome.
Area law enforcement, including the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, had launched at least three boats to help with the rescues.
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