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Crews Move into Recovery Mode; Officials Try to Determine Cause

Emergency crews in Minneapolis have gone from 'rescue' to 'recovery' mode as investigators try to figure out why a crowded interstate bridge plunged into the Mississippi River during the evening commute.
/ Source: KDLT-TV

Authorities still aren't sure how many people died but say as many as 30 may be missing. This twisted metal and shattered concrete tells only part of the story here.

From kids on a school bus:

"Just the impact of seeing kids go and up and down, and just the impact I felt myself, I just thought the worst automatically."

To evening commuters caught in the collapse:

"And we were falling, literally falling."

The stories of survivors and those still missing continue to haunt this community and the entire country.

Ronald Engebretsen, whose wife is missing, says, "Maybe she's a Jane Doe out there in a hospital that maybe still isn't identified, maybe she's unconscious, or maybe she's in an air pocket someplace."

There are bodies still submerged in cars and in the debris of the I-35W Bridge.

No one seems to know exactly how many, but officials are guessing between 20 and 30.

And while crews fight the unstable rubble and dangerous river current to recover the dead, investigators are simultaneously trying to figure out how and why it happened.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says, "A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down."

Security cameras captured the last moments of the bridge, which was built in 1967, and labeled as 'structurally deficient' after a federal inspection two years ago.

Mary Peters, DOT Secretary, says, "What that rating of 50 means is that the bridge should be repaired, should perhaps be considered for replacement at some point in the future. It was by no means an indication that this bridge was not safe."

The bridge was undergoing surface repair work, but state and federal officials aren't sure if that played any role.

The NTSB says a full report on the collapse will likely take a year.

Mark Rosenker, NTSB Chairman, says, "After we recover these pieces of the bridge we will begin actually trying to reassemble them, so we can look at the various parts of this bridge and understand what made it fall down."

But as the death toll here eventually rises, no report or official explanation will be able to comfort victims or overcome the shock of a city, when an everyday evening commute turned into unspeakable horror.

The U.S. House Transportation Committee has approved legislation that would direct 250-million dollars to help Minnesota replace the bridge.

A similar bill is moving through the Senate.