PITTSBURGH, PA (AP) — Rescuers had to rappel almost 150 feet (46 m) to reach the victims of a bus that fell with the span into a ravine in a park.
The collapse occurred just hours before President Joe Biden visited the city to promote his $1 Trillion infrastructure law. This law has earmarked $1.6 billion for Pennsylvania bridge maintenance.
Authorities said that there were no fatalities but minor injuries due to the collapse. They also flew drones in order to ensure no one was trapped under any collapsed sections. Five additional vehicles were also present on the bridge at that time. Crews searched under the debris looking for more victims.
Officials from the city said that the Forbes Avenue Bridge, which crosses Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park at 6:39 AM, was destroyed. Witnesses reported hearing a loud sound from the collapse followed by the smell of natural gases and a hissing sound.
“The first sound was more intense and kind of a grumbling which I think was the structure, deck hitting the ground,” Ken Doyno, a resident living four houses away, said. “It was like the entire house rattled at that moment.”
Officials from the city said that the leak was caused by ruptured gas lines on the bridge. The gas supply was then shut off in half an hour.
A spokesperson for National Transportation Safety Board, an agency independent of government that investigates problems in transportation, stated Friday that the agency would send a team consisting of approximately 10 people to look into “not just what happened, but why it occurred.”
Sam Wasserman, a spokesperson of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said that officials were still evaluating the scene after the collapse and that an urban search-and rescue team was still searching the area for other victims.
According to Wasserman, most of those who were treated for injuries were first responders. They were either exhausted or were affected by the cold and snowy conditions. Wasserman stated that three people were taken to hospital, but none sustained serious injuries.
It was almost like a scene from an earthquake. There was a crack at the bridge where the bus landed. A car was also upside down in front.
Two-part, long-haul Port Authority of Allegheny County buses were on the bridge at the time it collapsed. There were two passengers and the driver aboard, according to Adam Brandolph, spokesperson of the transit agency. All three passengers were safely evacuated.
Brandolph stated that two hours after the bus collapsed, one of the passengers was riding on another bus when Brandolph said the passenger complained of injuries and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Brandolph claims that neither the driver nor the other passenger were hurt.
The bus was heading to Braddock, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
Brandolph stated that judging by the time of the day, if the bus had been traveling inbound toward downtown, it would likely have seen more people and could have been much worse.
There were seven to eight cameras on the bus, and all footage of the collapse will be included in the investigation.
Brandolph stated that while we haven’t been able yet to look at the footage, it is something Brandolph hopes to do soon.
Neighbors claimed that a worker from a gas company went door to door to try to evacuate them. However, the gas was not successfully turned off.
Lyn Krynski, who lives near the bridge, said that apart from the abiding noise, they could smell gas, which was frightening.
Douglas Gwilym said that the noise sounded more like a weather phenomenon than anything. He was snowshoving about an inch when he heard it. “It was all that I could compare it with — it was an odd, whooshing sound.”
Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor. John Fetterman described it as “just an horrible, surreal scene.”
Fetterman stated, “I hope it is a wake up call to the nation that these infrastructure investments are necessary.”
This bridge is an important route that connects to the Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and downtown Pittsburgh. The area was advised by authorities to be avoided. A number of neighbors suggested that a two-hour delay due to weather could have prevented a much worse human tragedy.
The White House stated that Biden would continue with his trip to Pittsburgh in a statement.
The statement stated that “our team is in contact with state and local officials on ground as they continue to collect information about the cause for the collapse.” “The President is grateful for the first responders who rushed in to help the drivers on the bridge.”
According to 2005 estimates, the steel bridge can carry approximately 14,500 vehicles per day.
Wasserman stated that the most recent inspection took place in September, but the report wasn’t immediately available.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory, a September 2019 inspection of this city-owned bridge found that the deck and superstructure were in poor condition. The bridge’s overall condition was listed on the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as “poor.” This means that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has seen the progression of “deterioration of the primary structural elements”.