The companies behind a pedestrian bridge that collapsed near Florida International University (FIU) have separately faced questions of unsafe practices in the past, and one was even accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier in 2018.
Munilla Construction Management, a Miami-based construction management firm, won the $14.2 million contract to build a pedestrian walkway that would connect the FIU campus to the city of Sweetwater. The partially built 175-foot, 950-ton section of the bridge had been assembled by the side of the highway and moved into place to great fanfare. It collapsed just five days later, trapping cars underneath and leaving at least six people dead.
The pedestrian bridge at FIU was the first joint venture for Munilla Construction Management and FIGG Bridge Engineers. As state and federal investigators worked to determine why the span collapsed, authorities said Friday that cables supporting the bridge under construction were being tightened following a “stress test” when it collapsed.
The bridge was installed using an accelerated construction method. The 174-foot span was installed in just one day using Accelerated Bridge Construction.
Both FIGG and MCM have separately faced questions of unsafe practices in the past, although both companies are also nationally known and have a long history of successful projects that have had no issues.
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Munilla Construction Management (MCM)
A review of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records shows that MCM has been cited for 11 safety violations, three of them “serious,” between 2014 to 2017. The fines totaling more than $50,000 arose from complaints about unsafe trenches, cement dust and other problems at its Florida work sites.
Earlier in 2018, a Transportation Security Administration employee filed a lawsuit accusing the company of “shoddy work” after MCM allegedly placed a makeshift bridge at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that collapsed under his weight.
The TSA employee, Jose Perez, was injured when the temporary bridge broke beneath him on October 20, 2016. His attorney said he had multiple broken bones and damage to his spine. You can view the full complaint here, filed on March 5, 2018 by Jose Perez against Munilla Construction Management.
FIGG Bridge Engineers
The FIU pedestrian bridge project was constructed in partnership with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a Tallahassee firm that designed the structure.
FIGG said that nothing in its company’s history had ever happened before, but FIGG was fined in 2012 after a 90-ton section of a bridge it was building in Virginia crashed onto railroad tracks below, injuring four workers.
A citation from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry said FIGG did not properly inspect a girder and had not obtained written consent from its manufacturer before modifying it, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The newspaper reported the state fined FIGG $28,000.