In my thoughts

The last word I heard on the bridge collapse in Minneapolis is that about 50 people are injured, with 3 confirmed deaths. (H/t Drudge.) The reason behind the bridge’s collapse is currently a mystery, so I won’t comment or speculate. I’ll only say that I hope that the above numbers, which are bad enough as they stand, are the full extent of the injured and dead, and that my thoughts are with all those affected by this dreadful occurrence.

UPDATE: Sadly, and unsurprisingly, the numbers are going up, with the current tally of those who have died standing at 6. The best news out of all of this is that of the school bus driver, who had just crossed the bridge before the collapse happened, successfully stopped the bus from rolling backwards, and then safely evacuated the children under his/her care.

There’s currently a lot of speculation about whether this was a terrorist attack, especially given the fact that the bridge passed an inspection last year. No one seems to have heard the sound of an explosion, however, so any terrorism would have had to be very subtle.

I don’t know why, and I’m sure it’s unrelated and reflects only my profound ignorance about engineering matters, but I keep thinking about the time the Hyatt hotel walkway in Missouri collapsed in 1981, killing 114 people and injury more than 200. Although the building had passed inspection, it proved to have a fatal design flaw, one that nobody thought about at the time. The fact is that, sometimes, badly built or wrongly designed structures look great right until the moment they’re gone.

Maybe it reflects my parochial coastal viewpoint, but I also don’t see this bridge as a terrorist target. Al Qaeda has proven that it likes capital cities and it likes big symbols. In that regard, although God forbid it should ever happen, the Golden Gate or the Brooklyn Bridge, or any number of other symbolic American bridges would seem to be the more likely targets (although, admittedly, also the more difficult to attack).

UPDATE IIJames Lileks is also inclined, as of now, towards the construction failure theory:

No one is ascribing the collapse to the construction, but am I the only person to think that it might be a factor, somehow? It’s odd how the mind wants explanations like that; they help make sense of the unbelievable, because we simply don’t want to think that things like this happen for reasons that have been decades in the making.


8 Responses

  1. This reminds me of the bridge collapse on I40 in Oklahoma in 2002. In that case a barge hit the bridge and unsuspecting drivers continued over the bridge. In my case, I have driven over both bridges many times. My prayers go the families of the dead and the injured.

  2. The Minnesota TV station site had interviews with witnesses, at least one of whom (I didn’t read them all) said it sounded like a bomb went off.

    On the other hand, although it was inspected last year, it was built 40 years ago….who knows how much traffic they had then or what it was engineered to take.

    I admit my first thought was sabotage…hope that’s wrong. But, it would be smart of AQ to start on bridges like this, no?

  3. It would certainly be good practice, Earl, and I’ve always thought that striking terror in the heartland is as effective a terrorism mechanism as any other the Islamofascists can visit on us. I’ve assumed that they haven’t because a terrorist might be more visible in such communities, which are probably more tightly knit and homogenous, increasing the risk factor for an unsuccessful mission.

  4. Anyone check out the Hizbollah cells?

    They would need someone with engineering experience to figure out how to collapse a bridge. AQ’s problem with the World Trade Towers were exactly because their demolitions guys didn’t know what the hell they were doing.

    Suicide bombers are easy to come up with. Harder to find folks with engineering knowledge or chemistry knowledge or bio-chemistry or physics.

  5. The story is still unfolding. The four loud booms one survivor heard could have been explosives or structural failures. I have to think it was a structural failure. There was a collapse of a bridge in Connecticut on I 95 a number of years ago. One of those huge, vaulting, pre-stressed concrete jobs.
    Apparently one of the concrete beams slid off it’s support.
    Whenever I walk through a huge parking building, I check to see how deep the support shelves are. It can be a bit worrisome.

  6. The Kansas City Hyatt did not have a design flaw. It had a construction flaw because the contractor did not follow the plans exactly.

    The skybridges were, in the original plan, supposed to have been supported by a single piece of metal going from the upper support through the bottom of the lowest skybridge (there were three over the lobby). Of course there were many of these hangers for the skybridges, not just one.

    Rather than use the intended single piece, the contractor substituted two pieces with a fastener in the middle (close to the second skybridge) which was much weaker than the original plan. During the regular Friday dance, crowds were standing on the skybridges, swaying to the music, setting up a sway in the skybridges which broke the metal support at the point of the fastener (or broke the fastener) which lead the middle skybridge to collapse which fell on the lower skybridge and which also allowed the top-most skybridge to fall on the lower ones.

    My point to this is, the littlest thing can cause unimaginable disaster and it’s important not to speculate until the engineers have done their work. Not that you are speculating, but the newsworms are already, just so they have something to say.

    And if you should wonder how I know all this, I lived in Kansas City at the time this happened and I followed the story avidly as my employer was one of the insurance companies covering the building. It took many months for this report to come out. Engineers are, fortunately, meticulous folk, and they need to be left alone to do their work properly.

  7. Thank you so much for that helpful information, Carol. And your point, of course, is absolutely correct.

  8. […] much to hope for With respect to the Minneapolis bridge collapse, it was too much to hope, as I did in my last post, that fatalities would remain in the single digits.  Right now, with known injured people and […]

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