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Minneapolis Rescue Efforts Turn To Recovery

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- People in Minnesota are still trying to come to grips with the rush hour collapse of one of the busiest bridges in the Midwest.
/ Source: WVTM-TV
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- People in Minnesota are still trying to come to grips with the rush hour collapse of one of the busiest bridges in the Midwest.
The 8 lane Interstate 35 Bridge runs through the heart of Minneapolis and collapsed without warning Wednesday into the Mississippi River below, injuring 79 people.
As of Thursday evening, the death toll stood at four, but is likely to rise.
A strong current and poor visibility into the river hampered the search for more bodies. To help speed recovery efforts, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to lower the water level of the Mississippi by two feet, but for those who have loved ones still missing some where in the rubble, it’s proving to be a long and difficult wait.
What began as a rescue is now a recovery mission as crews searched for bodies still trapped in the mud, silt and, in many cases, cars now trapped beneath concrete in the Mississippi River.
At least 30 people are still missing-- including Ronald Engebretsen's wife, Sherri.
"Pray for Sherri. She would pray for you and she'd pray for all the people in the disasters that have happened recently in our country, and we ask that you pray for her,” he said.
It was just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday when the chaos erupted.
"We were just -- boom, boom, boom. I mean, we felt this horrible -- and we were falling, literally falling," said one survivor.
In a matter of seconds, the I-35 Bridge, a commuter favorite through the heart of Minneapolis, collapsed. It didn't just crumble, it came down in chunks, one after another, plunging 60 feet to the water below.
"These are horrible images, but within each of these images is a story. That car you see hanging in the wreckage is someone's cousin or brother or husband and one story after the other unfolds," said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Jeremy Hernandez is a counselor who was on board a school bus filled with 52 children when the bridge suddenly gave way.
"Right when I saw water, I felt a jerk (and) I knew we were in an accident,” he said.
"I thought my nephew -- I thought we were going to die, I really did,” said Sasha Bouye, a victim’s aunt.
Officials still don't know what triggered the collapse. For the last 17 years, the bridge has been designated structurally deficient, showing signs of cracks in the metal and welding. In fact, the bridge was scheduled for a complete overhaul, but not until the year 2020.
"While there were concerns about stress and fatigue aspects of the bridge, it did not result in the calling for an immediate replacement or closure or weight limitations or other restrictions on the bridge,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
There are more than 75,000 bridges in U.S. rated structurally deficient. Fixing them will cost $188 billion and take more than 20 years to complete.