Minneapolis Bridge Collapse: Divers Find Bodies in Submerged Vehicles - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/2/07

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse: Divers Find Bodies in Submerged Vehicles

Rescue effort shifts to recovery

Authorities are now describing it as a recovery effort, as divers search the Mississippi River for more bodies from yesterday's bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

As many as 30 people are missing. The official death toll stands at four, but Police Chief Tim Dolan says more victims are still in the water.

Dolan says there are "a number of vehicles" underneath big pieces of concrete with bodies trapped inside.

Divers have been taking down license plate numbers so that authorities can track down the identities of the drivers. Getting the vehicles out of the water is expected to take days. Large,

heavy pieces of steel and concrete will have to be moved.

The police chief says the bridge is still shifting. He also notes that search teams have to deal with the Mississippi's currents, so crews will have to work "slowly and safely."

'It seemed like a movie' - survivors tell of escapes after bridge collapse

"Boom, boom, boom" is what Jamie Winegar heard, then she says she felt her car "just dropping, dropping, dropping."

Winegar and her family were visiting Minneapolis from Houston when they found themselves stuck in rush-hour traffic as the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed.

Behind the wheel, Dennis Winegar fought to keep their rental car under control. He slammed on the brakes and saw things disappear, before the car pointed straight down. He estimates they fell  about 50 feet but landed among other vehicles on the remains of the bridge.

Catherine Yankelevich ended up in the river. Scared and feeling like she was in a movie, Yankelevich says she managed to climb out and swim to shore uninjured.

Road crews were working on the bridge at the time. The contracting company says its workers described sliding into cars as they rode the bridge down to the water. One member of the 18-person team remains among the missing.

Bush pledges government help to rebuild Minneapolis bridge quickly

President Bush is pledging federal help to ensure the collapsed Minneapolis bridge is rebuilt as quickly as possible.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden following a Cabinet meeting, Bush offered his  condolences to the victims and their families.

Bush says the federal government must respond "robustly" to help people in the area and the city itself recover. He described the bridge as a "lifeline of activity" for the city.

The 40-year-old Interstate 35W bridge spanned the Mississippi River and served as a major artery through Minneapolis.

Bush has sent Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to the city, where she announced a five-million-dollar grant to help pay the cost of rerouting traffic around the disaster.

Inspection found deficiencies

The White House says an inspection two years ago found problems in the bridge.

 President Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, says the inspection found some structural deficiencies. He says the 40-year-old bridge rated 50 on a scale of 120 for structural stability.

He says it "doesn't mean there was a risk of failure." But Snow adds that when a report finds deficiencies, it's up to the state to take "corrective actions."

The White House also announced that first lady Laura Bush will visit Minneapolis tomorrow. She'll console families of the victims of the collapse.

Courtesy: AP

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