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10 people injured after snow-covered bridge collapses in Pittsburgh

Crews formed a human chain to help rescue passengers on a bus left dangling off the bridge, on the same day Biden is scheduled to visit to discuss infrastructure needs.
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Ten people were injured Friday morning when a snow-covered bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed ahead of President Joe Biden's scheduled visit to the area to talk about infrastructure.

Pittsburgh Public Safety announced at about 7 a.m. that the bridge, in Frick Park, had collapsed.

Image: Pittsburgh bridge collapse
A port authority bus dangles from a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh's East End, on Friday.Gene J. Puskar / AP

Three of the people hurt were a driver and two passengers who were on a bus when the bridge collapsed. Crews formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from the bus, which was left dangling off the bridge, The Associated Press reported.

Responders who slipped and fell were also among the injured.

Darryl Jones, the city's fire chief, said crews had to rappel about 100 feet to help people, according to NBC affiliate WPXI of Pittsburgh.

Officials had urged everyone to avoid the area. The collapse caused a large gas leak, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety.

Some families were evacuated from nearby homes, but they were cleared to return by the afternoon.

Witnesses said the loud noise from the collapse was followed by a hissing sound and the smell of natural gas.

“The first sound was much more intense, and kind of a rumbling, which I guess was the structure, the deck hitting the ground,” Ken Doyno, a resident who lives four houses away, said. “I mean, the whole house rattled at that point.”

Douglas Gwilym, who was shoveling about an inch of snow when he heard the noise, said the collapse "sounded like a weather phenomenon more than anything."

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday the agency was sending a team of about 10 people to investigate “not only what happened but why it happened.”

Search and rescue teams were searching under the bridge to make sure people were not trapped, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety.

Aerial drone footage showed four snow-covered vehicles and the bus remained on the collapsed bridge. Another car was overturned on one side of the bridge.

The Forbes Avenue bridge over Frick Park in Pittsburgh collapsed early Friday.
The Forbes Avenue bridge over Frick Park in Pittsburgh collapsed early Friday. Pittsburgh Public Safety / via Twitter

The collapse prompted Pittsburgh Public Schools officials to transition all K-5, K-8, 6-8 and special schools to remote learning for the day "due to the impact of a bridge collapse in the East End and a high volume of bus driver call-offs." Several neighbors said a two-hour school delay due to weather may have prevented a far worse human tragedy.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his team was "monitoring the situation in Pittsburgh and prepared to provide support as needed."

"Pittsburgh residents: Please stay safe and continue to avoid the area," he wrote on Twitter.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would still make the trip to West Mifflin, 10 miles outside of Pittsburgh, “and will stay in touch with officials on the ground about additional assistance we can provide.”

She said the president “is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time.”

Biden is set to deliver a speech to promote his $1 trillion infrastructure law, which has earmarked about $1.6 billion for Pennsylvania bridge maintenance.

Beforehand, he visited the site of the bridge collapse.

"I didn’t realize there were more bridges in Pittsburgh than in any city in the world, more than in Venice," he said. "And we’re going to fix them all. It's not a joke. This is going to be a gigantic change."

At the site of the collapse, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called it “just an awful, surreal scene.”

“I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments,” Fetterman said.

The bridge is an important artery that leads to the Squirrel Hill and Oakland neighborhoods, and a popular route toward downtown Pittsburgh.

It was most recently inspected in September, but the report was not immediately available.

A September 2019 inspection of the city-owned bridge revealed the deck and superstructure to be in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory. A spreadsheet on the state Department of Transportation website listed the bridge’s overall condition as poor, which, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, means “deterioration of primary structural elements has advanced.”