Officials Remain Tight Lipped on New Bridge Investigation

Valentina Palm/PantherNOW

Joshua Ceballos/Staff Writer

Just a few days before students got back to another semester of staring at the remains of the infamous FIU bridge, five individuals were spotted walking on top of the would-be bridge’s support beams.

On Thursday, Aug. 22, five men were doing work on and around the concrete support of the failed bridge on the side opposite from the University.

The men had equipment such as a camera on a tripod and a sheet of paper attached to the support column. When asked who they were and what they were doing with the bridge, the group said that they had “no comment.”

One older man with a white beard was wearing a reflective vest and FIU hard hat. While his companions remained tight-lipped, he said that they were doing an investigation.

When asked if they were part of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the collapse he said, “Not that investigation. I can’t tell you any more. Talk to general counsel.”

The General Counsel’s office is the University’s legal arm, and the General Counsel is the attorney for FIU. When the University is named in a lawsuit, the General Counsel’s office gets involved.

Wendy Vargas, an attorney from the General Counsel’s office whom the FIU worker referred to by name, referred PantherNOW to Media Relations, who says the University cannot comment on what was going on at the bridge because it involves pending litigation.

Valentina Palm/ PantherNOW

The University was named as a defendant in several court cases following the collapse of the bridge on Thursday, March 15, 2018, including one brought by the parents of Alexa Duran, the FIU student who died in the collapse, and one by FIGG Bridge Engineers, the firm that designed the bridge.

Two of the other men seen working on the bridge column on Aug. 22, who refused to identify themselves or comment on their activities, wore clothing that had the logos of Munilla Construction Management (MCM) and DeSimone Consulting Engineers.

MCM was the company that built the ultimately faulty bridge. They filed for bankruptcy in March 2019, and struck a deal to pay the victims of the tragedy and their families up to $42 million.

The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

DeSimone Consulting Engineers is a firm with offices on Brickell Avenue. Their services include forensic consulting in “complex property and liability losses” according to their website.

When contacted by PantherNOW, a DeSimone spokesperson said “I don’t know what they were doing. I can’t tell you. Ask FIU.”

PantherNOW reached out to MCM but a response was not received.

Records requests were sent to to the National Transportation Safety Board, who is investigating the bridge collapse, and to Media Relations for all communications between the University and MCM and DeSimone.

A spokesperson for the NTSB said that all evidence from the bridge site has been secured, so any work going on on the bridge would not constitute tampering with their investigation.