A road bridge over the Mississippi river in Minneapolis has collapsed killing at least seven people.
Tim Ellingson witnessed the aftermath of the bridge collapse
Here readers who were in the area describe the immediate aftermath of the collapse and the subsequent rescue operation.
I was taking a walk after work on a pedestrian only bridge 25 miles west of the bridge and saw a plume of smoke shoot 100-200 feet in the air, almost like a geyser. Then another smaller plume in the centre part and then the north end fell. It was not very loud, very weird, almost like a "spraying" noise, not much smoke, and then it was eerily silent. We were confused what bridge it was, and it was nearly 7-10 minutes before we heard any sirens at all.
I then walked to the north end and stood five feet from the crushed rail car. I looked down and saw at least three cars completely crumpled. One lady was laying there on the ground, and a man and a woman were climbing out of their SUV's sunroof, looking very stunned. There was shock everywhere, people were not moving very fast. Later, I saw three Minneapolis police officers covered in sweat, wearing gloves. I asked if they saw any dead bodies. One officer said despairingly that he saw seven.
Joe Costello, Minneapolis
I am a resident of Minneapolis and use this bridge frequently. My brother-in-law was on the bridge 25 minutes before it went down. I'm also a civil engineer by profession and work 1/4 mile from the bridge. One important fact is that the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) published it's US Infrastructure Report Card in 2005 and gave bridges in the United States a grade of C and a total Infrastructure GPA of D. Politicians have repeatedly ignored warnings from civil engineers to correct our failing infrastructure...and now we have this major disaster.
Kevin G Miller, Minneapolis, MN, USA
I was going to the Minnesota Twins baseball game when traffic became tied up. There were ambulances, cop cars, fire trucks, and helicopters everywhere. I didn't know what was going on. I got to a friend's house near the Mississippi River and a friend called him to tell him what had happened. We walked down to the river and thousands of people had gathered. Some were crying, some were videotaping, most were just in awe, not sure how something like this could happen in America.
We saw hundreds of emergency vehicles on the left side of the river and thick smoke from burning vehicles on the right side of where the bridge had been. Two years ago, I lived a block from this bridge and jogged under it daily along the river. I can only imagine living there now.
I tried calling friends and family in the area but cell phone service was down for over an hour as the system became overwhelmed. The news of the collapse spread quickly and when the phones came up I received over 20 phone calls in about an hour's time checking to see where I was and if I was ok. Although this isn't the biggest news event in world history, it certainly is big news here and we are all a little bit more of a close-knit community tonight.
Michael Hammond, Minneapolis, MN
The bridge on the north side where it fell on a passing freight train severely damaged large train cars and damaged a tanker car (freight train car), but is believed not to be hazardous. Coming to the site of the accident the smell of burning rubber and smoke filled the air, as with the countless sounds of emergency vehicles rushing to the site. On one side, there was a pick up truck and a semi-truck or an articulated lorry which was on fire. Many cars in the river were damaged because of the falling concrete and steel.
Joseph McAllister, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
I was in a restaurant when they told us the news that the bridge had collapsed. We had driven over it to get to dinner not 15 minutes beforehand. Everyone was shocked. 140,000+ people driver over that bridge every day, it is a major freeway over the river.
My brother lives 1/2 mile from the bridge and my husband is the general manager of the movie theatre just blocks upriver from the bridge. We went to the theatre, then walked to the Stone Arch Bridge (a pedestrian and bicycle bridge nearest upriver from the 35w bridge). There were hundreds of people looking. It was unbelievable. The 35W Bridge runs parallel to the Cedar Ave Bridge and they are about the same height. There was nothing left standing of the bridge. It looked like an earthquake had hit (which we don't get in Minnesota).
You could see that the middle section of the bridge had fallen straight into the river. Luckily, there has been a drought here, so the water levels in the Mississippi were not as high as they usually are. Some cars were sticking up out of the water and divers were looking for survivors.
Another section of the bridge that was over the river road had the school bus and the truck that was on fire. Some other people on the bridge with me said that they had gotten the kids out before the truck caught on fire.
They have been doing road construction on that bridge for weeks now, tearing out the old concrete, putting in new rebar, and putting in new cement. They have shut down 2 of the 4 lanes in both directions, which is madness during rush hour. Traffic just stands still over the bridge. Everyone here is wondering if the construction caused this.
Eryn Dewey-Carter, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
I went down not long after the bridge collapsed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There was a bridge that I had driven over not long before - gone! I think most of us were in disbelief. I kept getting text messages asking if I was alright. People were having trouble getting cellphone reception. I know my own mother was in tears when she was finally able to reach me. What a strange day!
HJJ, Minneapolis, MN
I live very near this tragedy and was driving this stretch of highway just hours before. Our entire community pulled together, the rescue efforts went as well as anyone could have hoped, and I am proud of the rescue workers, fire fighters, police officers and citizens who helped. Everyone in Minneapolis uses or knows and loves someone who uses this stretch of road daily. Our town has a broken heart tonight. I hope the world will keep us in their thoughts and prayers.
Tia Weinand, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Both my roommate and I had just gotten home from work and smelt something burning like plastic or tires. We received a call and were told to turn on our TV - we were baffled. We live four blocks from this bridge and both of us have used it in the past for our daily commute. Because of the construction we both have been taking other routes to and from work and for running errands. We walked down to view what seemed to be a surreal scene of cars overturned, fire, police and ambulances driving around trying to calm the chaos, and people just standing around with a sense of helplessness. We were defiantly stunned and in shock. We hope that none of our friends were involved in this incident. I hate to say it, but thankfully this did happen now, during the construction, or that bridge would have had 5 times the amount of traffic on it than it did tonight. My heart goes out to all the families affected by this tragedy.
Laura, Minneapolis, MN USA
I've been within 50 meters of the bridge, and live 1km away. It looks like a war-zone. Right after the collapse the air was thick with smoke from the fires. I cross the I-35 bridge everyday to work, and feel very lucky I wasn't there.
Nick H, Minneapolis MN, USA
Absolutely insane. I live 4 blocks away from the bridge and the scene is unreal. There were people everywhere waiting to hear the latest news. The sky is filled with choppers and there are rescue units everywhere. Thank God we have the National Guard and such a wonderful response team.
Kaiti Reed, Minneapolis, MN Hennipin county
I'm a resident of St Paul, MN, and a frequent driver on the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi. Far more than the bridge collapsed tonight. The bridge is the centre of an expressway elevated on concrete pillars for hundreds of feet in both directions. Much of the elevated expressway also collapsed, falling onto streets, pedestrian walkways and railroad tracks.
MJ Saenz, St Paul, Minnesota USA
I went to look at the bridge around 6:30pm CST. From the walking bridge about 2 blocks north I could see several burnt and/or crushed cars (maybe 5 or 6). Then I walked to University Ave Bridge which crosses over highway on the east side of the wreckage. From there I could see the road went upward about 30 feet then disappeared into the river.
On the west end from this point I could see a school bus and a white cargo truck which was smoking and being doused with hoses. The school bus was hauling (25?) kids which were part of some kind of academic program that my friend works with as a volunteer. She says that she received a call that all the kids had escaped unharmed.
Jesse Spalding, Minneapolis, MN
Mere minutes after I crossed the bridge with my entire family, it collapsed into the river. There were actually two lanes open, not one (at least on the southbound side), when we drove over the bridge. Traffic was heavy and was moving barely 20mph. Afterwards, when I walked across a nearby pedestrian bridge, I looked over and the bridge was simply gone. The entire span across the wide river was missing.
I could see all kinds of emergency vehicles, including rows of ambulances, several boats, and a huge collapsed structure emergency rescue truck. I heard from a friend whose parent's were on a Mississippi Riverboat cruise that their captain stopped the boat, grabbed lifejackets, and jumped to another boat to join the rescue efforts. I got close enough to the collapsed bridge to see where the metal bent at a steep angle and crushed the train underneath. This bridge is the main artery between north and south Minneapolis, and with the heavy traffic, there would have been no way for anyone to escape. This is a frightening tragedy.
Erin Bettendorf, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
I biked as close as I could to the scene. I was not the only one. Many, many people were on the sidewalks, streets, and trails to see the area for themselves. The atmosphere was not one of tragedy, but almost that of a city-wide get-together. Parents had their children out with them and there even appeared to be many tourists. This was a little more than hour after the collapse occurred. Everything seemed to be very calm and organized.
Curt Trisko, Minneapolis, MN. USA
My sister-in-law is an administrative employee at the University of Minnesota Hospital known as Fairview University. We saw the collapsed bridge as we took her to work as she had been called in for disaster response. We drive this bridge every day. The construction work being done was minor resurfacing of the roadway, no structural work at all. At 10:21 PM in Minneapolis, as reported by KARE 11 TV, there are 6 confirmed dead, 37 injured. 50 cars were on the bridge at the time at the time of the collapse, as well as 20 road construction workers.
Steve Borgstrom, Coon Rapids, Suburb of Minneapolis, MN
The smell from the burning wreckage of the cars and trucks is permeating the area. We live just off this part of the highway. My partner was about two minutes from the collapse as she got off the highway by our house.
Elena Beltran, Minneapolis, United States
I work in downtown Minneapolis and saw the aftermath of the collapse from my office. A co-worker and I walked nearby. There are huge crowds of people and traffic, so that many of the responders are kept busy keeping pedestrians away. Fortunately there was a large emergency services and medical response so that there seems to be plenty of extra hands. There are also three large hospitals within a kilometre of the bridge and Minneapolis police headquarters nearby so the injured have had immediate access to help and multiple federal and local agencies have been immediately available to help.
The collapse happened at the tail-end of rush hour and seems to have been a failure of the metal frame of the bridge on either the centre or west side (the right side in your picture). Fortunately the bridge was under construction and was reduced to two lanes each way. Many cars also remained in place on their sections of the road way as they fell. The construction was supposedly to repair/replace the concrete deck and should not have affected the metal frame. The bridge was also supposedly last fully inspected in 2004 according to reports, our winters are fairly severe so the inspections are pretty rigorous.
However, the bridge was loaded with traffic and the temperature was in the mid-90's Fahrenheit and very humid. The bridge crosses the Mississippi river just after the falls of St Anthony between the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis, so there was long drop into the river gorge. The bridge landed just at the base of dam on the river that will probably cause difficulties in the recovery efforts, however, according to an EMT I talked to they were looking to reduce water flow at the site by holding more water in upstream dams. Most people here are simply still in disbelief and shock. As such, life seems to be going on in a strange mix of spectacle and normal as it sinks in.
Andrew Walseth, Minneapolis, Minnesota - USA
I was getting ready to head into a Minnesota Twins game from downtown Minneapolis, when I heard a huge boom and then everything was silent. I then heard from a friend that the bridge had collapsed. We ran from downtown over to the scene, where a semi-truck had started on fire. There was also a school bus, which looked like it had fallen straight down off a portion of the bridge which had broken in two.
Everywhere you looked people were banding together and attempting to get down to the scene to help the best they could, where they could. Police and other emergency crews arrived shortly thereafter, and began to mobilize and organize a search effort. There were as many as 20 rescue boats in the water within a half an hour. This situation is absolutely the most tragic and devastating thing I can remember happening in the twin cities area. I wish nothing but the best to the families of those involved, please keep all of them in your wishes and prayers, as they will be in mine.
Kevin, Saint Paul, MN
Countless emergency vehicles continue to converge on the area, coming from all directions. Helicopters take off and land and hover overhead. Mobile phones can't get through because networks are overloaded, although land lines work. Thousands of people stand and observe from every available vantage point. Media coverage is already local, national and international.
Derek, Minneapolis, MN
I live right next to the bridge, all of a sudden we heard helicopters and police cars all over. Nobody knew what was going on until we turned on the news. The bridge is in ruins, it is used constantly here as it is right next to the University, this is one of the saddest things to happen in this area that I can remember.
Catherine Roath, Minneapolis, MN USA
Sitting here in Minneapolis, the bridge buckled in four pieces at rush hour, traffic was bumper-to-bumper and estimates are between 30 to 50 cars were on the bridge at the time. Its being to get dark here with a storm moving in, rescue is not going to get any easier. The scenes are horrific, like nothing I have seen.
Margaret, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I rode my bicycle over to the scene and the destruction was terrible. As hundreds of people looked on in disbelief, bicycle cops pedalled onto the pedestrian bridge upon which other onlookers and I were standing and ordered everyone off in order to begin transporting bodies from one side of the Mississippi to the other. Civilian pick-up trucks were being driven across, the beds filled with the injured and rescue workers holding IV bags aloft.
As night falls in the Twin Cities, rescue crews continue to search for victims of this horrendous accident. This is now being called a recovery operation, as rescue workers believe that all survivors have been found. The mayor just confirmed six fatalities, and one has to believe that more will follow. Also, for those unfamiliar with the area, bike paths and walking trails run along both sides of the river underneath this bridge. Hopefully they were clear of pedestrians when the structure fell.
Brian Heenan, Minneapolis, MN, USA
I live about 5 blocks from the north end of the collapsed bridge. I first heard about it when friends started SMSing me asking 'are you all right?'. I had to ask why they were curious.The cell networks in the area were overloaded and you could only get about 1 in 20 calls through. The ones that came in echoed the SMS's.The bridge is hard to see where it lies, most of the commotion was due to gawkers and an absolutely amazing number of fire and police workers on the scene cordoning off a large area around the collapse. When you finally jockeyed into a position where you could see the wreckage, it was a bit underwhelming. I did a complete loop around the collapse and saw it from every angle.
One of the saving graces of the whole accident was that the bridge was under construction and the traffic on it was down to one lane in each direction from four and going at a snail's pace. I had just gotten off on the exit before the bridge 30 minutes before because I didn't want to deal with the traffic. If this had happened on a normal day without construction, there would have easily been 2-3 times as many vehicles on the bridge, and possibly a good number more who could not stop in time. It could have been far worse under 'normal' circumstances. This is one of the main arteries into the city of Minneapolis, and the main route to go from the northern to southern suburbs, and obviously the other way around. It will cause quite a bit of economic damage over the next year or so.
Charlie Demerjian, Minneapolis, MN, USA
I drove over the I-35W Bridge hundreds if not thousands of times in my 18 years in Minneapolis, and many of my friends and family drove over it twice daily, during their commutes. You always fear that something like this might happen but reassure yourself that bridges are built so they don't collapse. There couldn't be a more profound way of showing that we shouldn't take our safety for granted. I wish the best for those currently in hospitals around the metro area and offer my condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible event.
A Casey, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I drive over the Mighty Mississippi every day to go into Minneapolis for work and thank God I take the other major highway (I-94). But I am having a hard time trying to imagine that within several miles of proximity, had I been just a couple bridges over, and just a slight 20 minutes earlier I too could have experienced such an immense fright of having the road beneath my car literally just drop.
I arrived home in my St Paul suburb 30 minutes away from the bridge a little after 6:00pm and turned on the news to disbelief over what had just happened in my beloved city. My mom and I quickly got back in the car to drive into Minneapolis and walking around the scene was chaos. There were helicopters, many fire trucks from neighbouring suburbs speeding in, police lights flashing, people everywhere in such a sombre mood.
To get near the bridge was blocked off with emergency vehicles swarming around. Although the closest I was able to get was to stand on the nearby highway overpass looking straight ahead to where the bridge went upwards a little and then I couldn't see the rest because it had plunged into the river. This is truly a horrible tragedy for such an innovative city of Minneapolis, but the instant rescue effort was really outstanding.
The people of Minnesota are so well known and pride themselves for the famous "Minnesota Nice" and as we have already displayed, we will stick together in this shocking recovery.
Libby Hanson, St Paul, MN