updated 8/2/2007 10:46:26 AM ET 2007-08-02T14:46:26

Guests: Rob Carter, Amy Phenix, Janet Stately, Dana Munson

DAN ABRAMS, ANCHOR:  Keith, continuing now with our breaking news out of Minneapolis tonight, where a major four-lane bridge that covered the Mississippi River has collapsed during rush hour in what was described by one witness as bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Twisted metal and cars have plummeted into the water below.  At this hour, dozens are believed to be injured, some seriously.  It is believed that there are at least three fatalities, according to one report at this time.

Rescue workers have been on the scene, divers searching for survivors.  The bridge buckled just after 6:00 o‘clock Central time.  Around 6:09 is the official time they are saying.  That is 7:09 Eastern time.  We have learned that construction workers were resurfacing the bridge when it fell.

You are now looking at some pictures from earlier today.  As you see there, the mass of the cars falling to the ground.  You see there rescue workers on the scene.  When this initially happened, we were told that every ambulance in the area had been directed to go towards this bridge.  This is being described, at this point, as something of a calamity.

Now, as we begin to research a little bit more about this bridge and the fact that there was some sort of repairs being done on it, we learned that in May of 2006, an evaluation of the bridge recommended monitoring of fatigue cracking on the bridge‘s girders.  Again, we have no idea if that had anything to do with this collapse, but that is something that we are learning at this hour.  The bridge was undergoing a deck rehabilitation at the time of the accident.

You are looking at pictures all from the last couple of hours because, again, this occurred less than two hours ago.  We also have live pictures.

Corey (ph), who do we have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have Rob Carter on the phone.

ABRAMS:  Rob Carter...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He taught a class this summer to the Minnesota Department of Transportation about the problems at this bridge.

ABRAMS:  All right.  He has just spoken to someone at the Minnesota Department of Transportation about this bridge.  Rob, what did you learn?

ROB CARTER, CRITICAL INCIDENT SOLUTIONS:  Well, actually, we taught NIMS ICS (ph) -- it‘s a national incident management system, incident command system—to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  And of course, the bridges and all the road infrastructure are the—you know, the key items that they deal with.  But we did not deal with anything with that bridge in particular or any isolated piece of infrastructure.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Before I ask you to clarify that in a moment—you‘re now looking at pictures, again, from the last couple of hours of people who were injured as they were taken off of that bridge.  You can see from the way that the bridge collapsed that there clearly was the ability for survivors, for cars not necessarily to have fallen directly into the water.  That may not be solace for some that may not have been so lucky.

We, again, don‘t know at this time exactly how many cars plummeted into the water.  We don‘t know exactly how many people were injured.  Again, we are getting reports of dozens.  We are getting reports of at least three fatalities.  But we are waiting for more information on that.

This is a bridge built in 1967.  It rises about 64 feet above the river.  But as you can see, this is a major, major interstate.  We‘re talking about a four-lane highway here that crossed over the Mississippi, now twisted pieces of metal.

All right, Rob, I‘m sorry.  You were talking before about the fact that you are training—you trained some of the Minnesota officials.  Do you know anything about what the status of this bridge was at the time of the collapse?

CARTER:  No, sir.  We don‘t know anything about the bridge or anything in particular.  What we did was part of the—the NIMS ICS is for all hazards.  It‘s for anything like this bridge collapse to a terrorist incident.  It‘s how they integrate with the—all the different first responders to run the incident command.

ABRAMS:  All right.

CARTER:  And so they get to play a key role, and the training was to get them to a higher level, so they‘d be able to deal with this type of situation.  It was just very coincidental we just completed the training last month.

ABRAMS:  So you completed training last month with what is likely the very officials who are on the scene.  And what would you say would be the key elements that they have to be thinking about now as they deal with this tragedy?

CARTER:  Well, it‘s being able to add their subject matter expertise and tie into all of the different first response elements that will be showing up, the local, state and probably federal officials.  They‘ll be better equipped to tie in directly with them and be able to answer all of the questions that are going to come up, deal with the engineering, deal with all the—the police that are going to be on all the roads.  And it‘s just a—it‘s just a much better way.  That way, everybody‘s speaking from the same—you know, with the same—on the same sheet of music, so to speak, with NIMS ICS.  And everybody that shows up on scene who‘s had the training knows exactly what their goals and responsibilities are to manage an incident such as this.

ABRAMS:  Because I would presume that there are going to be various officials from a whole variety of different departments converging on the scene at the same time.

CARTER:  Absolutely right, and that‘s what NIMS does.  It takes all of them unknown and the politics out of a type of incident such as this.  And everyone shows up.  You have your operations people that are already trained.  You have logistics, finance.  You have everything that could run it, almost like a military operation.  And these people are thoroughly trained in their responsibilities, and they have an incident commander that‘ll be on scene that will work with his unit chiefs and section chiefs.  And they‘ll design the plan for the next 12-hour period, like an incident action plan, you know, that goes on and on, which apparently this will.  They‘ll just continue it even days, weeks, months until it‘s complete and wrapped up.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me—before I go to Milissa Rehberger, let me go to Amy Phenix, who is with one of the local hospitals there.  Amy, thank you very much for taking the time.  What can you tell us about the numbers and any information about people who‘ve been admitted to your hospital?

AMY PHENIX, ABBOTT NORTHWESTERN HOSPITAL:  We have right now four patients who were injured in this accident, two adults, two children.  One is a girl who‘s in fair condition, and the two adults are both in fair condition.  And the boy is in good condition.

ABRAMS:  Is your hospital—what would be—I assume your hospital would not be described as the closest one to the scene of the incident.

PHENIX:  No, the county hospital is really the tertiary hospital in the region and is also the closest to the incident.  We‘re probably the second closest and the second largest hospital in the area.

ABRAMS:  What is the protocol for how they decide who might be brought to your hospital, versus a hospital that would be considered closer to the actual scene?

PHENIX:  It really has to do with the severity of the injuries.  Anybody needing, you know, kind of tertiary critical emergency care would be going to those big tertiary centers.  We‘ll probably end up really getting a lot of diverts.  People with less serious illness who otherwise would have gone to those centers will be diverted to our facility.

ABRAMS:  Do you have any information on any of the numbers at some of the other facilities where some of the more...

PHENIX:  You know, we don‘t.

ABRAMS:  OK.

PHENIX:  We don‘t have that information at this time.

ABRAMS:  But at this time, you have two adults, two children being treated at your hospital.

PHENIX:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Amy, thank you very much.  Please keep...

PHENIX:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Please keep us updated, if you can.

We are continuing now with our special coverage here on MSNBC of a major collapse of a four-lane what really could be described as a highway but which was also a bridge that went over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.  What we know at this point is that there were something like 50 cars—we‘re waiting to hear more numbers about that—that were reported to be in the Mississippi River around this bridge.  We are still hearing about—as you just heard a moment ago, we‘re hearing about reports of injuries.  And there are apparently fatalities.  We‘re waiting to get more details on that.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, 200,000 cars use this bridge per day.

Let‘s do this.  Let‘s go to tape from just a few minutes ago of eyewitnesses at the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) the swim team that was apparently heading to a meet of some sort.  And so parents now are showing up at the scene to try and learn more about that.  Of course, we heard about the school bus.  They were next to the man we talked to earlier, right after this happened, who was next to the school bus when it happened.  That man was able to get out OK and was helping as many of the children as he can who might have been injured in this.

So some parents are showing up.  They have a look of concern on their face.  We‘ll try and find out a little bit more,but from what I just overheard, it sounding like there was (INAUDIBLE) and they were heading to a swim meet probably this evening when this accident happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are they being allowed to get to their children, assuming those children were not already transported to the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  At this point, they‘re at the scene, so I think they‘re looking for answers at this point.  Where we‘re standing is probably not how they‘re going to find out about—about how their children are doing.  And a number of them, it appears, may not even actually speak English, some of the parents here who are on the scene.  And so they are probably confused.  They‘re trying to figure out as much as they can.  Where they‘re standing right now, they‘re not going to probably find out much about the condition of the children, but...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re not being allowed in closer to the scene, Joe?  Is that what you‘re saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At this point, I‘m not sure if they‘re allowed (INAUDIBLE) at this point.  My guess is that their kids have probably been taken to the hospital, at this point, if that was necessary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you seeing many people still being transported past you in emergency vehicles or by emergency personnel, or is that not happening where you‘re standing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not from where I am standing.  And it is the Weight House, it looks like, W-E-I-G-H-T House, which was about 60 kids, one person was guessing, that were on the bus, on the swim team at the time.  Again, this is just from one parent who was at the scene, and they‘re trying to find out more about their kids at this time.  But you know, they are probably just as starved for information as many of us are at this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  That was an eyewitness account from only moments ago.  You heard them talking about a school bus that can be seen in a variety of shots from the scene there.  It does appear, according to all of the reports, that all of the children who were on that bus are alive and did get out of that bus.  As you heard a few moments ago, we just talked to someone at a local hospital who said they were treating at least two children there and that there is another local hospital where others would be brought.

Janet Stately was in the car with her daughter and heard the bridge collapse.

JANET STATELY, WITNESSED BRIDGE COLLAPSE:  Hello?

ABRAMS:  Janet, are you with us?  I‘m sorry.

STATELY:  I am.

ABRAMS:  Janet, thanks very much for taking the time.

STATELY:  The connection is kind of poor.  We‘ve got a lot of phone problems in the city right now.

ABRAMS:  Tell me what happened.

STATELY:  My daughter and I were just coming back from a trip to Duluth, and I made a decision not to get on that bridge because they had two lanes, I believe, closed.  It said, Left lane closed, and, Right lane closed.  And there were so many cars trying to, you know, get into the only open two lanes in the middle.  And in my opinion, I don‘t think some of them were even moving.

And there‘s a gas station a couple blocks from there, at the end of the Posing (ph) bridge, or you know, one that runs parallel to that bridge.  And I wanted to stop and use the bathroom, but I couldn‘t make the turn because there was too much traffic on that bridge, too, so I just kept going.  I only live about a mile from these bridges.

And I heard a crack and then I heard—and I can‘t tell you the sequence.  I heard horns honking.  I saw—it‘s like it was in slow motion.  I saw two ends of the bridge go down in a point towards the water.  And it just—there was a horrible crashing, and there was another piece that I saw, like, pancake down.  And all these cars were going in slow motion.

And I was screaming because I had been behind a school bus, and I could see that it was pointing down towards the water, towards the V, the inverted shape of this bridge, you know, where it was breaking in the center, you know, from my point of vision anyway.  So I was screaming.  And my daughter was trying to call 911.  And it just go to be chaos.  And I wanted to get off of that bridge.

My daughter was trying to make me make a right turn and go over there and see what we could do to help, but I knew we couldn‘t because we couldn‘t get near it.  We were—we each had a cell phone and were trying to call 911, but we couldn‘t do it.  We couldn‘t get through.

So there were some passerby people on foot, young men, and we were hollering to them and asking them to run down and help.  And then some bike riders—I‘m assuming it was a team, maybe from the university because that‘s—you know, the University of Minnesota is quite close.  And we told them what happened.  And were both sobbing.  And they took off towards it.

And then I came home and now I feel really sick.  And my daughter told my son what happened, and they went back to see what they could do to help.  But there really wasn‘t anything they could do.  It‘s just pandemonium and chaos.  And you could hear sirens going everywhere.  And then there was helicopters in the air.  And I started trying to call around because I have two grandkids still that are not accounted for, and neither of them have cell phones.  So if Jana (ph) or Paul hear Grandma‘s voice, please call home.

ABRAMS:  Janet, if we can just ask you to stand by for a moment?  There‘s a—we‘re getting a little bit more information from the local hospital there...

STATELY:  Yes, and it‘s not good.  I have a friend who works at the hospital.  I think she was going down to see what she could do to help.

ABRAMS:  All right, Janet, let‘s—you can listen with us as we listen to the hospital spokesperson right now.

STATELY:  OK.  And I‘ve got another call coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... periodically through the year, but basically, we set up a triage center and then we sort.  We have a physician and nurse team at that center.  We call in—we call in personnel from the hospital of all types, people to transport patients, nurses, doctors, administrative people to help with the logistics, security to help with—with security-type issues and locking down the perimeter.

And then we sort patients not those who are critically ill, those who are not critically ill but ill and have injuries requiring intervention urgently, and those who are what we call the walking wounded, those with minor injuries.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  Have you been told what to expect?  Have you been told what to expect for the rest of the night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The question is, have I been told what to expect for the rest of the night.  And no, we don‘t know what to expect except that typically in a disaster situation like this, there will be patients who find their own transportation to the hospital.  They may go to any hospitals, as any of you might.  If you were in a situation like this and you could get out of there, you‘d find your own way.

So we expect patients to be trickling in, but those would fall—typically would fall in the walking wounded category.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  ... are they children?  Are they adults? (INAUDIBLE) critically injured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have—the ones that came here were largely adults.  I‘m told that there were six children that went to north side hospitals from the north side of the bridge.

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) could you describe (INAUDIBLE) chaotic, somewhere in between...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In the hospital?

QUESTION:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The scene in the hospital is very well controlled. 

We have a command center on the second story of the hospital with good communication with the emergency department.  We have physician leaders in each of the three areas of the emergency department.  Nursing tasks have all been assigned in advance for this type of situation so we keep track of patients very carefully and resources very carefully.  We have a personnel pool on the second floor, so that they don‘t all congregate in the emergency department and communications back and forth so that we get the help that we need.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  Have you notified the family of the person who died?  Are they aware that that person has died?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t have that information.  We have a family center set up.

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) at this point, after what happened, did you expect to see more (INAUDIBLE) at the hospital or is this what you expected (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think this is—it‘s unknown what would happen when how many people were on the bridge or how bad the falls were.  So we had no idea how patients we would get.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) drowning victims, the people in the water? 

Have you been told to prepare for any of that kind of stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we have one drowning victim here, and I believe there are—there are more drowning victims at the scene who...

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) seen anything like this before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve never been in a bridge collapse before.  We have—one of our faculty was at Kansas City at the Hyde (ph) collapse and says that this is very similar to what happened there.

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) at any point in the night where there (INAUDIBLE) 9:00 o‘clock, 10:00 o‘clock, 11:00 o‘clock (INAUDIBLE) Are you expecting people to just keep coming in through the night, or (INAUDIBLE) reach a point when you realize that probably (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think we‘ll reach a point, and we‘re probably rapidly reaching a point where we‘ve seen the most seriously ill patients.

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) Did they arrive (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t have a lot of detail on that because I wasn‘t involved in the care of that patient, but I believe that patient probably did not have vital signs when they arrived, and they were pronounced here, although I‘m not sure of that.

QUESTION:  From your vantage point, how did the (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think we had an outstanding response of our emergency medical services, from public safety, fire, police, paramedics, the various paramedics services in town.  We have medical directors in emergency medicine that responded from North Memorial, from HCMC, from Laconia (ph) and from elsewhere around.  So it‘s a well organized system that we have drilled many times, and it seems to have worked very well.

QUESTION:  Has there been any (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, not really.  I mean, in any—any disaster situation, the two biggest  problems we have are communication and transportation.  Our transportation has worked very well.  Communication is always a problem.  As you know, trying to get information about this is very difficult.  The people at the scene are too difficult (ph) to transmit repeated information.  So the necessary information is transmitted, and the details will follow, and you‘ll probably be reporting more of the details than we have right now.

ABRAMS:  You hear there the—one of the local hospitals providing an update, at least as much as they can, at this point, saying that they had one drowning victim there, that they expected that there were others at the scene.  Six children, as well, have been admitted.

Let‘s go back to Janet Stately, who is back with us.  She was in her car with her daughter and witnessed the bridge collapse.  Janet, you were telling us in really somewhat horrifying detail what you saw before.  Just so we understand, how far were you from the bridge when it collapsed?

STATELY:  I was at eye level with it, but I can‘t tell you—I would say it‘s a matter of maybe what amounts to four city blocks, but I‘m not positive.  I‘ve not paid any attention to that detail.

ABRAMS:  And you said...

STATELY:  I was really on just, you know—about a quarter of a mile, my son just said.  So I could—I heard it first, and then I heard cracking.  And I can‘t tell you the order.  A piece went down flat, and then another part just went down in a V.  And there were—all the—all the cars were like they were Hot Wheels.  And I was screaming, Oh, my God, there was kids on that bus, because I had been behind a bus when I decided to turn and not go on that bridge.

ABRAMS:  You had said that both the right and the left lane of that four-lane bridge were closed?

STATELY:  Well, further down the road, as I was approaching it, yes, it said, Merge left lane, and I don‘t know how many miles prior to the bridge that was.  And then there was another one that said the right lane was going to be closed.  And I thought, Oh, this is nuts.  That‘s why the traffic‘s not moving.  So I just got off the freeway and took the bridge where it‘s only 30 miles an hour, and that was sort of jammed up, too, but not as bad as the other one.  We were moving.  But the people on that bridge, in my opinion, most of them were not really even moving.

ABRAMS:  Bumper-to-bumper traffic.

STATELY:  It was just bumper to bumper.  And I know early reports said 30 cars.  I‘d have to say there was 100.  That‘s quite a long span over the Mississippi there, and I would guess that it‘s certainly more than 50, and I wouldn‘t be surprised to hear 100.  There was a couple of semis, too.  We were kind of traveling, you know, in a pack, you know, sort of from Duluth.  For a while there as we approached the city from Lana Lakes (ph) and Forest (ph) Lake on, we kind of were with the same crowd of cars.  And while you don‘t know those people, you were traveling with them and saw them, or you know, thanked them when they let you pass.  And I don‘t know their fate.

ABRAMS:  You had said that you‘d been talking about this school bus that you saw.

STATELY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Were you able to see—did you leave the scene before any of the children came out of the bus?

STATELY:  (INAUDIBLE) way that I can stop on that bridge, sir, so I just kept going.  I did not see the bus gone down.  And now I—when I got home and got the news on, I saw that the bus did not go into the water.

ABRAMS:  Right.

STATELY:  (INAUDIBLE) have been able to—at least the local news reports tell us that they have been able to rescue all the children.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STATELY:  I know they‘re probably injured, but—they were screaming, it said, so...

ABRAMS:  Is it pretty clear to you that that was the same bus that you saw, based on what you saw in the news?

STATELY:  Yes, sir, I believe it was, which means there was one car between me and the bus.  So I probably—and I wouldn‘t have been able to change lanes.  I probably would not have gone down into the water.

But you know, it was—the bridge was sort of careening in different directions and twisting.  I don‘t even know how to describe it.  It was horrific.  I don‘t think I‘ve witnessed anything this horrific since I was watching the 9/11 reports on television.  I‘ve never been this horrified, nor do I think I‘ve been this close to death.  So as we were driving and screaming and trying to get through to 911, you know, to get help, we were just praying because you‘re so helpless, all you can do is pray.

ABRAMS:  And at the time, you were at that gas station, right?

STATELY:  No.  I couldn‘t get into the lane to get to it, so I was on the bridge, actually, the opposing bridge, the parallel—that runs parallel to it.

ABRAMS:  All right, Janet, thank you very much for coming on.  I know this has been a very, very difficult afternoon for you.  And it‘s good to hear...

STATELY:  Well, I feel blessed, but my heart goes out to those people. 

Oh, my God!

ABRAMS:  And...

STATELY:  You‘re compelled to watch, but you don‘t want to.

ABRAMS:  I think you‘d mentioned before that you‘re hoping your grandchildren will be...

STATELY:  Yes, well, neither of them drive, but you know teenagers and cars.  You still have to worry.  The whole city is worrying that somebody they know or love is on that bridge.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right...

STATELY:  So I think I will go now.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Thank you.

STATELY:  All right.  Thank you.  Bye.

ABRAMS:  Good night.

All right, let‘s go back—are we going to go to a press conference, or are we going to talk to Dana?  All right.  Dana Munson is now four blocks away from the collapsed bridge and can apparently see everything from her vantage point.  Dana, tell us what you can see.  Dana Munson, are you there with us?

DANA MUNSON, STANDING NEAR THE BRIDGE:  I‘m here.

ABRAMS:  Hi.  I understand you‘re a few blocks away from the bridge. 

What can you see?

MUNSON:  I am.  And actually, it‘s really hard to hear because there‘s a lot of people around this area right now because they want to have a bird‘s-eye view of what is going on.

ABRAMS:  I completely understand, so we will—we accept the fact that you may not be able to speak for very long and that you may not be able to hear me particularly well.  But what can you see from where you are right now?

MUNSON:  Well, what I can see from here—let me just tell you that I‘m probably about five to six stories up in the air at the New Guthrie (ph) Mississippi, which is where the bridge is that collapsed.  And so what I can see is I can see the collapsed bridge, which is—which spans the Mississippi River right now.  And then there‘s another bridge that‘s next to it that‘s still intact, and that has all the ambulance drivers and fire trucks and police officers and rescue workers on it.

ABRAMS:  Dana, is there any rescue—are there any rescues going on that you can see right now?

MUNSON:  There are rescues going on that I can see right now.  That‘s probably, like I saw, about—I would say probably more (ph) blocks away from me.  So they look a little small, but I know that they are doing their best right now to rescue as many people as they can.

ABRAMS:  Are they in the water, as far as you can see, these rescues going on in the water or on the bridge?

MUNSON:  No.  No.  It‘s happening both on top of the bridge and also in the water.  I can see the banks of the Mississippi River.   There are lots of ambulance drivers and cop cars down by the banks, as well.

ABRAMS:  I‘m assuming that you did not actually witness the collapse of the bridge?

MUNSON:  I was actually en route to see a show here at the Guthrie Theater, and we couldn‘t get through.  It took us quite some time to even get into the Guthrie, and so I didn‘t witness that part.  But we knew what was happening.  And then once we got inside, we came up here to (INAUDIBLE) fifth floor or the fifth story so we could take a look.

ABRAMS:  And we are looking also, I think, at a different kind of shot, which is on television, much like the one you are probably looking at in real life.  But you point out that there is a parallel bridge that is still intact, correct?

MUNSON:  That‘s correct.  There is a parallel bridge that is still intact, and that‘s where a lot of the ambulance drivers, rescue workers and whatnot are on that bridge right now.  And actually, they‘re setting up some sort of floodlights that I can see.  That‘s what‘s going on.  I mean, if you guys could just see what I can see in real life, it looks so different on television.  Actually, when we found out here in Minneapolis, it was on the local news, breaking news.  And we were sitting in a restaurant.  And then seeing it, you know, now, in real life, it‘s just completely different (INAUDIBLE) so amazing.

ABRAMS:  I think that the enormity of it is probably what is difficult to translate on television.

MUNSON:  Yes.  It is.  It is quite something.  And you know, most people know that the Mississippi River is a pretty wide river, especially up here in Minnesota, where it starts.  And to see the bridge—the span of the bridge collapsed in the water is quite something.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I think when we see these images on television, it is sometimes hard to picture a major four-lane bridge...

MUNSON:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... that spans across the Mississippi River, all of the—even the shot we‘re showing now, we‘re looking at enormous that are being doused with water, but...

MUNSON:  Yes, I can see that.  I see where you‘re looking.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MUNSON:  I don‘t know see what you‘re looking at, but I can see what you‘re talking about.  And I think that the only saving grace in this is that there was construction going on on that bridge, and so it was down to one lane going each way because I can‘t imagine if both lanes were opened up going both ways, you know?  So that‘s the only—that‘s the only good thing about this.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  We just heard from an eyewitness who almost turned onto the bridge, saying that she decided not to get on the bridge because the right lane and the far left lane...

MUNSON:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... were both—were both closed off, and there was literally bumper-to- bumper traffic.

MUNSON:  Yes.  Yes, that‘s correct.  And so I think that‘s what‘s going to keep the numbers down as far as casualties go, is because of that construction.  The one time we can thank construction for that, I guess.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Dana Munson, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

MUNSON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  We may want to check back in with you later, if you don‘t mind, if you do get the time.

MUNSON:  OK.

ABRAMS:  We appreciate it.

MUNSON:  We‘ll talk to you later.

ABRAMS:  We are continuing with our live coverage of a disaster in Minneapolis, where a four-lane bridge that went over the Mississippi River, 64-foot-high bridge, has collapsed.  We know that there were—there was bumper-to-bumper traffic in two lanes, according to witnesses.  It is a four-lane highway.  The far right and far left lane, according to a witness who was just on this program, were closed, so one lane going each way, with bumper-to-bumper traffic at the time of the collapse.  We have heard from a local hospital that there was at least one drowning victim brought to that hospital, 15 patients taken to local hospitals, as far as we know, at least six in critical condition.

We heard from that same hospital that there were six children brought there.  We know that there had been a school bus that was on the bridge, the eyewitness saying that she saw it ahead of her, and we could see it on our tape.  The school bus was on the part of the bridge that had not submerged into the water.  You see there on the far right that school bus.  Again, mixed reports.  It appears that all of the children according to eyewitnesses were taken off of the bus alive.  We‘re waiting to hear the condition of those children. 

We have a press conference coming up at 9:45, where we‘re going to get updated.  The mayor is expected to be there and to update some of the numbers in connection with this case.  Let‘s take a listen now to a couple of more eyewitnesses and this, again, from only moments ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right now with two people who heard this and then looked out and saw it, Joe Hughes (ph) and Jared Powers (ph).  You guys were here at the Stone Arch Apartments (ph), about two football, maybe three football fields from the bridge.  Tell me what you heard and then what you saw. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I was just riding up the elevator to the fifth floor, and then I felt the rumble.  And then we were actually just going to leave, and then we saw this whole scene, so we got down this hill here and walked all the way up to the scene.  And it was mainly just firefighters at the time, and then some people that were watching and trying to help, too. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, we carried people from the bridge.  You know, we put them on the stretchers and then carried them to the ambience.  You know, when you put a bloody, delusional, pregnant woman onto a stretcher and then carry her to the ambulance, it‘s one of those things you‘re going to remember for a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So she was one of the victims who was pregnant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was she saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was completely out of it.  She was moaning and flailing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She wasn‘t looking good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And so you helped get four people out of the river or off the...

(CROSSTALK) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, three were out of like kind of the rubble where the bridge collapsed on the upper shore over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the other was in the river or...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We saw this guy (INAUDIBLE) life jacket.  He‘s

swimming them into shore, and he had—his whole face was all bloody.  And

we‘re talking to him—like, not talking to him, but the firefights, when

we were pulling them to the ambulance, and he had like his broken jaw and

everything.  And he was extremely bloody

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you guys thinking through all this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just trying to help out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, that was our first instinct, was just to try to help out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Those were eyewitnesses from only moments ago talking about the help that they had offered to people on the scene.  This is the latest information we‘re getting in from our affiliate in Minneapolis, KARE, that firefighters and other rescue personnel having a hard time reaching all of the injured because of the debris and the location of the collapse.  As we mentioned moments ago, six of the 15 injured that we know of are being treated who are in critical condition.  We also heard from one of the local hospitals that there is one confirmed drowning death, but according to that spokesperson, he was certainly expecting that there would be more, based on what you are looking at right now, which is a major calamity in Minneapolis. 

Courtney Johnson is with the Twin Cities Red Cross and joins us now on the phone.  Courtney, thank you for taking the time.  What can you tell us about what the Red Cross has been able to do?

COURTNEY JOHNSON, TWIN CITIES RED CROSS:  Well, so far what the Red Cross is doing is we saw the students from the school bus that was involved in this accident.  They were brought into our lobby, where we triaged the children.  We saw probably about 40 kids from the school bus. 

And then throughout the night and, you know, the less immediate needs, the things that we‘re going to be doing is we‘re going to be helping with the mental health needs of the volunteers and the responders.  We have a mental health team, a volunteer team on our staff.  We also are going to be feeding the emergency responders.  There are more emergency responders here than I have ever seen in one event in my life, and they‘re all going to be getting hungry here pretty soon, so we‘re making arrangements to make sure they‘re fed, because I think it‘s pretty apparent that we‘re all going to be here for well throughout the night. 

ABRAMS:  Courtney, let me ask you this.  You said that you saw those 40-some-odd children from that school bus.  Just so you know, there‘s been a lot of question from a lot of people who have seen that school bus on the tape, you see it there on the far right of your screen, and people have been wanting to be assured that those children are alive.  As far as you know, all survived?

JOHNSON:  Well, and just to be clear, I saw children who I was told that they came from a bus that was on the bridge.  I don‘t if there was more than one school bus in this incident.  But as far as I know, all of those children were alive.  There were some injuries.  There are about anywhere from two to a dozen of those children who were transported to the hospital, but with real minor injuries.  Everybody was kind of walking wounded, you know, everybody from a few minor cuts and scrapes.  There were some kids coming up to me asking if they could have a bandage for, you know, a scrap on their toe to something a little bit more severe but still not by any means life-threatening. 

ABRAMS:  All right, thanks very much for coming on.  Appreciate it.  And I‘m sure everyone thanks you for all of the hard work that you and the Red Cross are doing on the scene there. 

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  We‘re getting a little bit of new information in.  The Minnesota Department of Transportation is telling KARE that at least 50 cars were believed to have been on the span at the time of the collapse.  Again, we have learned in the last half an hour or so that it appears that the far-right lane and the far-left lane of this bridge were closed off at the time, so it appears that there may have been only one lane open going each way, thereby explaining why there weren‘t even more cars on what is really a massive highway and bridge over the Mississippi. 

Thomas Von Essen is the former fire commissioner of New York.  He helped manage the crisis on September 11th.  Mr. Von Essen, thanks very much for coming on.  We appreciate it. 

This has got to be another one of those situations where you have officials from a whole variety of organizations coming together, not knowing exactly what has happened, exactly what to do, and trying to coordinate that as much as possible.

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER NYC FIRE COMMISSIONER: Well, I‘m sure they planned quite a bit for, you know, different other types of emergencies, which is what helps you when you have something like this that you may not have planned for.  And you can see how all the communities have rallied to this area to get as much equipment and people there.  That one lady mentioned she had never seen so many first responders.

I would imagine their biggest concern now is gaining lighting in.  It‘s going to get dark, and they‘re going to want to work all night.  It‘s going to be difficult seeing underneath all that twisted steel and concrete and the people that might still be in the water, they‘re going to need extra boats.  They‘re going to need all kinds of people and lots of skills, welders.  The one lady mentioned it reminded her of September 11th, and there are many similarities on a smaller scale all the different construction issues that they‘re going to be dealing with here.  When you see that steel, that steel is very heavy, and it‘s not easy to move.  It needs to be cut.  It needs to be pulled away with heavy equipment.  So they‘ve got themselves an enormous undertaking and working all night. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  You were the fire commissioner of the largest city in terms of population in this country.  And as you point out, there is a good amount of preparation that goes into preparing for something like this, a calamity in a major metropolis.  Was there training in New York for a bridge collapse, per se? 

VON ESSEN:  You know, I don‘t ever remember saying, “Let‘s train for a bridge collapse.”  But when you train for an airplane crash or you train for a building collapse or you train for a contagious disease, many of the training and preparation is similar, being able to coordinate different communities, being able to get the help, as that one doctor mentioned, coordinating all the different hospitals in the area to be prepared, to get the right types of surgeons in.  People are on call for different status symbols or status situations, where they need different skills.  So you prepare for anything or everything, and then you just hope that you do the best you can when something like this happens.  I‘m sure they did not prepare for a 40-year-old bridge to collapse like that, but they‘re getting it done.

ABRAMS:  I would assume, also, that again we‘re seeing firefighters and rescue personnel littering the scene there.  I would assume that they‘re being called in from all of the local communities.  I remember on 9/11 they were literally coming from all over the country at the time.  But this close to the time—let‘s say we‘re now two and a half hours from the time of the actual collapse—how far away are firefighters and rescue personnel driving from to get to this scene?

VON ESSEN:  Well, there‘s an awful lot of mutual aid in towns like these folks live in, and there‘s an awful lot of help from the suburban areas that drive to Minneapolis-St. Paul everyday to go to work.  So I would imagine that there‘s volunteer units that are on a preplanned schedule to respond to respond to different locations.  There‘s other paid departments or (INAUDIBLE) departments in the area that are, if not already there, are on their way.

And like I said, they really do need equipment.  They‘re going to need small boats.  They‘re going to need big boats.  They‘re going to need cranes to pull those cars out, divers, and it‘s going to get dark.  So they‘re going to need all the help they can get.  And sometimes you can get too much help, and now the other issue of coordinating that help and utilizing it efficiently and strategically.  So hopefully they‘ll get it done as best they can.

ABRAMS:  Thomas Von Essen, thanks a lot for taking the time.  We may be asking you to come on back and help us through something that someone like you are one of the few people who can really address some of the major logistical concerns involved in this sort of rescue operation. 

We‘re expecting a press conference in about five minutes to update us on news as to what the latest is.  I‘m now getting in some more local reports here from local stations.  Dr. Joseph Clinton, the emergency medical chief at one of the local hospitals, says that hospital has treated 28 injured people, including six critically injured.  I think that that is the man we heard from earlier in a press conference.  Patients at the scene are being sorted at command centers and being sent to the appropriate hospitals.  Again, a news conference scheduled for 9:45 p.m. at City Hall.  But, again, when you are dealing with this sort of catastrophe, with news happening, with information coming in at all times, it is always uncertain as to the timing of something like this. 

Again, we are continuing our special MSNBC coverage of the collapse of a major bridge in Minneapolis, 35W.  It is a four-lane bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in the Minneapolis area.  We are being told by eyewitnesses that the far-left and far-right lanes were closed but that it was literally bumper-to-bumper traffic on this bridge at the time of the collapse.  Other eyewitnesses who are only blocks away from the scene telling us that rescues are still ongoing, as our coverage continues. 

Shannon Kelly is from the Hennepin County Medical Center.  It‘s the closest hospital with a level one trauma center in the area.  Thank you very much for taking the time.  What can you tell us about what‘s happening at your hospital?

SHANNON KELLY, HENNEPIN COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER:  Well, so far, we have received 22 patients non-critical and six critical patients, with one death. 

ABRAMS:  Would your medical center be considered the closest medical center to the scene of the collapse? 

KELLY:  I believe it would be, yes. 

ABRAMS:  And if there were patients who were in more critical condition, would they be likely sent to a different or would your hospital be the primary hospital?

KELLY:  Our hospital would be the primary hospital for patients on the southbound side of 35W.  My understanding is patients on the north side of 35W are going to north side hospitals. 

ABRAMS:  With that in mind, the fact that you believe that your hospital is the one that at least half, presumably, of the people on that bridge would probably have been brought to, and you have only had one death -- and I say only reluctantly—that would seem to indicate that this might not be as awful a calamity as it might have been. 

KELLY:  I think the situation is still evolving, so we really can‘t theorize about that yet. 

ABRAMS:  OK, fair enough.  So there are still people being brought in to your hospital?  Because when we listened to a press conference a short while ago from a spokesperson, I believe from your hospital, it sounded like he was suggesting that things had calmed a little bit.  Is that not the case? 

KELLY:  I know that there are many emergency vehicles on site and so I think the situation is still evolving.  And we really can‘t predict how many more we might receive at this time. 

ABRAMS:  I understand that.  And I think it would be foolish for me to ask if I did and foolish for you to speculate on those sorts of numbers.  Are most of the patients you‘re getting in the hospital there for injuries that occurred based on a fall? 

KELLY:  I believe so.  I believe that they are blunt injuries from falls, injuries to the head, face.  And, of course, we‘re investigating the internal injuries, as well. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thank you very much for taking the time.  We will ask you, if you wouldn‘t mind, to come back and update us as the night progresses, because I know there are going to be a lot of people asking a lot of questions about exactly what is happening at your hospital.  So thank you very much.

KELLY:  OK, thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dan, we‘re getting some tape of eyewitnesses. 

Let‘s listen in to it now. 

ABRAMS:  We‘re getting in tape right now.  Let‘s listen.  These are eyewitnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It came pretty quick.  It came pretty quick.  And there was a nurse near by me.  And it‘s not that she could get really close to any of the victims I think that had fallen in, but, you know, she was taking charge and, you know, helping traffic clear.  I don‘t know how quickly it happened, but help got there pretty quickly. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would think.  I couldn‘t see, I mean, just because I didn‘t get out of my car to look, but I‘m sure they fell in the water.  Some of them had fallen in.  I think there‘s like—you know, there‘s ground.  It‘s not all river underneath the bridge.  Some of it had fallen in, because when I got out, I got over here, and there were a lot of kids that were hurt.  There was a guy whose car had fallen in (INAUDIBLE) he was bloody.  His nose was bloody.  And he was pretty shaken up.  And there were a lot of kids that were, you know, hyperventilating, bloodied up.  I‘m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, there were people around to help those kids. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I mean, that was when I‘d gotten off the bridge, and I just came around to see what had happened. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, just, you know, oh, my god, you know, those people are falling in there.  You know, I hope they‘re OK, of course.  And then, you know, am I going in next?  Because you just see it coming slowly.  Not slowly, it was quick, but car falling, car falling.  And you just think about—I guess you think the people you care about. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would say dozens.  I mean, I don‘t know for sure.  There was a lot of cars.  It was bumper-to-bumper—I mean, how many—two to three lanes on both sides.  So there were a lot of cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It stopped at a certain point, and then, you know, we all tried to start backing up.  And, you know, we were backing up slowly, and we were yelling at the cars, “Back up!  Back up!”  And then people backed up, but it was bumper-to-bumper traffic, so you only got to be as far back as you could.  And like I said, luckily that lane was open...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was the account of an eyewitness there who witnessed this collapse that occurred about two hours and 40 minutes ago.  It is interesting, as we listen to eyewitnesses, again and again talking about how ordinary citizens did what they could to help, ordinary citizens who rushed to the scene to try to help rescue workers to get people out of the water, to get people off of the collapsed bridge. 

And I think that as the night progresses, we are going to hear more and more about citizen heroes who literally took their time and risked their own safety to go and try and help others throughout this evening.

Elahe Enssani is a civil engineer with San Francisco State and joins us now.  Elahe, we don‘t see very often bridges collapse.  What is it that might lead something like this to happen?  And I should add that we do know that, in May 2006, an evaluation of the bridge recommended monitoring based on fatigue cracking.  How significant is that, as well? 

ELAHE ENSSANI, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY:  Yes, (INAUDIBLE) we do not see very many bridges collapse.  However, we all remember 1989 collapse of Bay Bridge for totally different reason, cut in half, very similar.  I‘m looking at the picture, and I‘m reminded of this.

One thing that we realize is that a freight train was passing under the bridge when it collapsed.  And sometimes if they would repair—and, you know, you hear that there‘s repaid.  You know, a lot of data we need to collect, a lot of data to find out what really has happened.  And I want you to understand this is just a speculation, but fatigue cracking sometimes can happen when you have frequency resonance with just shaking of the ground with a freight train, going underneath.  I understand there was traffic there.  Everybody was trying to get to a game, so bumper-to-bumper traffic.  It‘s an overload on the bridge, and these two combinations could actually cause the fatigue cracking. 

ABRAMS:  All right, I‘m going to ask you if you wouldn‘t mind standing by for a moment.  I want to dip into our coverage from our local affiliate, KARE. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... injuries you might see in a car accident or a fall, the doctor tells us.  They are injuries to the face, injuries to some of the major organs.

And what they do when they bring the patients here is they classify them, they categorize them.  The most seriously injured, of course, those injured not as seriously, and those that they‘re calling the walking wounded.  As we said, we‘re seeing a lot of family members starting to walk up here to (INAUDIBLE) trying to locate their loved ones.  We‘ve been giving out this number here all evening, 612-873-3400.  That‘s the number to call here at HCMC, Mike and Julie, if folks are looking for their loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can‘t pass that number along too often, Trisha (ph).  Thank you very much.  And as Trisha mentioned there, they‘re anticipating probably further press conferences throughout the evening.  And we, as well, are waiting to hear now from the mayor, police chief, and perhaps even Governor Pawlenty coming up here at the top of the hour. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, and, you know, we wish we could pass along

to you an effective way other than the HCMC patient information line to try

to find out information about friends or loved ones who might have been in

the area at the time of this bridge collapse.  Unfortunately right now, we

don‘t have any other number but that one to give to you, and they don‘t

want people down at the scene.  So surely a frustrating time for people who

are worried about who might have been in the area at the time

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dr. Joseph Clinton, who had spoken earlier from HCMC, had made a point of saying being a trauma one center, handling the most critical of the injured, should tell folks at home perhaps if you have someone who is in that area and they were taken to a hospital, not to tell you that the chances of them being critical injured doesn‘t still exist, but the likelihood is somewhat less, because they would be at HCMC most likely.  So there are several hospitals in the area, seeing some other patients, the doctor saying a number that has now increased, we‘re told to seeing about 28 or so patients over the last several hours.  And including, of course, the one drowning victim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And when you look at the pictures of the scene and you see how that massive bridge—and we‘ve given you some statistics on that bridge.  It was about 64 feet high.  And the massive amount of concrete and steel that had to collapse into that river, and it looks just like toy cars and sticks, it was alarming several people. 

And we know from reporters on the scene that there was a lot of talk among witnesses and people who were standing by looking at that accident, a lot of murmurs of possible terroristic threats.  And we want to pass along that Lieutenant Amelia Huffman with the Minneapolis Police Department was emphatic that they believe this was simply a structural collapse.  They still don‘t why it collapsed.  They‘re say it‘s far early to know.  There was some construction going on, but it was light construction, and they said that there‘s nothing to indicate it was anything other than a structural collapse. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  FBI part of this, Department of Homeland Security part of this, law enforcement agencies from many of the surrounding counties and areas, all parsing together through some information and trying to cobble together just something that may have been a more likely scenario.  And she came out, Lieutenant Huffman did, feeling fairly confident that this is a structural collapse, as you had mentioned. 

The Salvation Army there, Red Cross also assisting in all of this.  And it seems to be, at this point, an issue of recovery and perhaps rescue, but right now, the way we‘re watching offline, some of the crews working through that scene, including divers, they appear to be trying to retrieve some of the cars, and hopefully no bodies, but that‘s their job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And the sun did set about 12 minutes ago, at 8:39, which is unfortunate, as well, as far as their work in the river, trying to find further victims of this bridge collapse.  In about seven minutes, we‘re anticipating a press conference with the mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, and Police Chief Tim Dolan. 

When we‘ve heard from other officials the range of emotion has been frustration to...

ABRAMS:  We‘re listening in there to our local affiliate, KARE, talking about some of the injuries at a local hospital.  Here is some more information that we are getting in at this hour. 

Minnesota state police spokesperson is saying at this time they believe it was a structural collapse.  There is no reason—no reason—to believe that foul play was involved, certainly no terrorism.  Those are the words of the police spokesperson.

The collapse, as we know, happened just after 6:00 p.m.  That is 7:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight.  The crews arrived there to find multiple cars and people in the water at the time that they arrived.  We have also been hearing from some of the local hospitals about the number of people who have been brought there.  We spoke to one official from what is described as the closest local hospital, where there were 22 people who had been admitted there, six critically, one person had died who had been brought to that hospital.  But according to her, that hospital would have been the destination for only about half of the people who might have been on the bridge. 

As we‘ve been reporting tonight, it appears that there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the bridge, but that the far-left and far-right lanes were closed at the time.  The state police are asking people not to use cell phones because there is a major communication issue going on.  And they‘re asking no one to go to the scene.  I can tell you, from having been at Ground Zero at the time of 9/11, no cell phones worked at that time.  And there may have been other reasons for that, as well, based on the World Trade Center.

But there is no question that the authorities want to make sure that people do not use their phones.  And despite the fact that people in the area have been enormously helpful with rescue operations, they are asking that no one else go to the scene at this time. 

We are getting in another eyewitness account.  Again, this is coming into us in the last hour.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She just told my fiancee, “The bridge I‘m on is collapsing.  I‘ve got to go.”  And we haven‘t heard anything since that yet, so I don‘t really know what‘s going on.  It‘s just bad.  There was a group of kids that were pulled off and they were crying when we came down.  They were just getting pulled out.  It just doesn‘t seem—I mean, it‘s a horrible situation, and you want to stay out of the cops‘ way and let them do their job, but at the same point in time you want to find out, is the person that I care about all right?  I mean, are they hurt?  I‘d be happy just to know she‘s hurt right now, because that way I‘d know she‘s alive and I‘d know where she‘s at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘d gotten on a highway, right on 35 at Washington, and I was just thinking, “Wow, look at all this traffic.”  I was like, “Dang, I‘m not going to get where I need to get pretty soon.”

And all of a sudden, I heard some noises, and I look up, and then all of a sudden, you know, way ahead of me, cars start falling, and, you know, the ground is going out from underneath them, and cars are falling.  And it‘s kind of like dominos are just getting closer and closer.

And about—you know, I stopped probably about five to ten cars in front of me, luckily.  And I couldn‘t see the water.  I couldn‘t see how far anybody had fallen in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Again, we are hearing tonight that the authorities there are saying that this was a structural collapse.  There will be a full investigation, but at this time there‘s no reason to suspect foul play.  Russell Kolmus is an expert in this area in the building of bridges, the engineering of bridges. 

Thanks very much for taking the time.  So what we know about this is that they are saying that it was a structural collapse.  We also know that there was a May 2006 evaluation that described fatigue cracking on the bridge‘s girders.  How significant is that? 

RUSSELL KOLMUS, BRIDGE EXPERT:  Fatigue cracking could be—if the fatigue cracking is basically on the girders, it could have been on the stringers that would have held the deck itself.  Generally, the main structural member here with the trusses would not be described as girders, so that the main structural member probably did not see those fatigue cracks.

ABRAMS:  We don‘t see bridges collapse, thank goodness, almost ever in this country.  How is it that they are built to prevent something like this from happening?  What are the extra protections that are put in place in the construction of a bridge?

KOLMUS:  Well, in the construction of the bridge, whenever you design something, you design it with certain factors of safety that are built into it so that the members that are sized are sized larger than they would need to be if we were looking at failure at certain loads.  There also sized so that the connections themselves would not fail first, but the failure would occur in other portions of the bridge where you get what they call a ductile failure, which would give you time to react to any type failure that would occur.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to ask you to stand by for a moment.  We are continuing our live coverage of this event, this calamity that occurred just under three hours ago.  And we‘re now getting in new pictures of some of the injured being placed onto ambulances.  Remember, at the time that this initially occurred, it was described that every ambulance in the area was directed to go towards this area. 

We are going to be continuing our special live coverage throughout the night, as we get more information.  We‘re told that the authorities there are still trying to get access to some people, based on the way that this bridge collapsed.  They‘re still having some trouble getting to some people who may have survived and who are still on the scene there.

Keith Olbermann takes over our coverage from here.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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