(CNN)An engineer for the company that designed a pedestrian bridge that collapsed Thursday, killing at least six people, left a voice mail two days earlier for a Florida Department of Transportation employee advising there was “some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span.”
The state employee was out on assignment Tuesday and didn’t hear the voice mail from W. Denney Pate of FIGG Bridge Engineers until he returned to the office Friday, the DOT said.
Pate’s voice mail said the design company didn’t see any safety concerns on the project near Florida International University but that the cracking was not a good development and would have to be repaired.
The news came as the National Transportation Safety Board disclosed that construction crews were working on diagonal beams on the north end of a future pedestrian bridge when the structure collapsed.
The NTSB investigator in charge, Robert Accetta, said Friday night it was too early to tell whether the bridge failed at the point construction workers were applying post-tensioning force to strengthen the beams.
When asked about the cracking, Accetta said: “I would have to say that a crack in the bridge does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.”
FIGG said it was working with the construction team to figure out why the bridge fell.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of life and injuries, and are carefully examining the steps that our team has taken in the interest of our overarching concern for public safety. The evaluation was based on the best available information at that time and indicated that there were no safety issues,” the company said.
The bridge, due to be finished in 2019, was supposed to enhance safety — letting walkers cross a busy eight-lane street with less worry after a vehicle last year struck and killed an FIU student.
Instead, it collapsed Thursday, months before it was to open, crushing cars below, killing at least six people and leaving investigators with the difficult task of trying to figure out why it happened and who might be held responsible.
“If anybody’s done anything wrong, we’ll hold them accountable,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
The structure’s 950-ton main span had just been installed Saturday using an accelerated construction process meant in part to reduce the time that street traffic was halted.
Emergency crews on Friday shifted their focus from a rescue mission to the “very slow process” of digging through the rubble for more victims and preserving evidence around the unstable bridge remnants, Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said.
One of the things crews hope to do is raise the bridge off vehicles using a large inflatable airbag, a source close to the bridge collapse investigation told CNN.
Recovery workers expect to find more bodies as debris is removed, Miami-Dade police Director Juan Perez said Friday. Of the six people who died, five bodies still were under the bridge wreckage Friday morning, Zabaleta said.
The first to be identified was an 18-year-old FIU student. The father of Alexa Duran told el Nuevo Herald newspaper in Miami that his daughter had died. “My little girl was trapped in the car and couldn’t get out,” Orlando Duran said.
Duran was driving an SUV under the bridge. A male passenger was able to get out and is at a hospital with neck and leg injuries.
According to a state DOT transcript, the voice mail message said: “Hey Tom, this is Denney Pate with FIGG Bridge Engineers. Calling to, uh, share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend.
“Um, so, uh, we’ve taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that.
“At any rate, I wanted to chat with you about that because I suspect at some point that’s gonna get to your desk. So, uh, at any rate, call me back when you can. Thank you. Bye.”