A Pittsburgh bridge collapsed just hours before President Biden was scheduled to visit the city and discuss plans for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
According to first responders, a bus and several other vehicles were trapped in the collapse, but luckily there were no fatalities. Police reported 10 people who were sent to the hospital with minor injuries, none of which were said to be life-threatening.
Rescuers had to repel down the ravine for nearly 150 feet to reach bus occupants who were miraculously unharmed. As authorities continue to search for any additional victims, the cause of the Pittsburgh bridge collapse is also being investigated.
Coming down at around 6:39 a.m., the bridge, named the Forbes Avenue Bridge which crosses over Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park, Pa., was reported to be over 50 years old.
Jeremy Habowski, a survivor of the Pittsburgh bridge collapse, told CNN that he was incredibly lucky to be alive.
“The scariest part was definitely going over the edge because there was a gap and my car left the ground,” he recalled. “It was a lot to take in.”
Witnesses to the collapse described an incredibly loud rumbling after the bridge hit the ground, followed by the hissing sound of gas lines releasing natural gas. City officials said that the gas leak was shut off shortly after.
“It sounded like a weather phenomenon more than anything,” said Douglas Gwilym, a nearby resident who was outside shoveling snow when he heard the noise. “It was all I had to compare it to — it was this odd, whooshing sound.”
Many schools in the area had a two-hour delay due to the snowstorm, which Lt. Gov. John Fetterman revealed could have potentially saved a lot of lives. The public bus, which contained two passengers and the driver, was also heading away from city center, which meant that it luckily carried less passengers at that time.
“If this would have occurred an hour later, this is a road that gets probably about 15,000 cars on it a day, and if it was rush hour, we would be looking at a couple hundred cars down in that valley,” stated Pittsburgh City Council member Corey O’Connor. “We got very, very lucky today, and hopefully those individuals at the hospital recover quickly and they’re home safe in the next couple days.”
Investigators also revealed that the bus likely had seven or eight security cameras inside, which they hope to review at a later date once they are secured from the collapse.
“I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments,” Fetterman told reporters, adding that the Pittsburgh bridge collapse was an, “awful, surreal scene.”
President Joe Biden informed the city that he would continue to travel to Pittsburgh to discuss infrastructure, which was now evidently more important than ever. According to AP News, $1.6 billion of his $1 trillion plan was planned to be allocated for Pennsylvania bridge maintenance.
“Our team is in touch with state and local officials on the ground as they continue to gather information about the cause of the collapse,” a statement from the White House read. “The President is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time.”
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the bridge was given an “overall rating of ‘poor'” by evaluators, but the city had yet to repair the structure.
“If there was any warning or concern, we would have been notified and we would have made sure that we didn’t use this route,” Fire Chief Darryl Jones said in a press conference Friday morning. “So, this one caught everybody by surprise this morning.”