Seeking Answers: Family of FIU Student Killed in Bridge Collapse File Lawsuit

What to Know

  • Orlando and Gina Duran met with the media Tuesday in the Miami office of their attorney to detail their suit against several defendants.
  • Their daughter, 18-year-old Alexa Duran, was the first victim to be identified by authorities after the bridge collapsed March 15th.
  • The freshman political science major was driving her vehicle along with friend Richard Humble when the bridge collapsed.

Less than three weeks after losing their daughter in the horrific bridge collapse near the campus of Florida International University, the parents of that incident’s youngest victim have filed a lawsuit in the case.

Orlando and Gina Duran, the parents of 18-year-old Alexa, met with the media Tuesday in the Miami office of their attorneys to detail their suit against several different defendants – including the two main firms involved in the bridge project, Miami based MCM Construction and FIGG Engineering based out of Tallahassee.

"I cannot begin to describe the pain that it brings me to talk about my daughter, because beyond my daughter, my little girl, she was a friend to me," said Orlando Duran.

"She didn’t want to leave me," said Gina Duran, detailing how Alexa turned down other schools to stay close to home and chose FIU. "She said 'Mami, I’m going to stay behind to help you at work.'"

Their daughter was the first victim to be identified by authorities after the bridge collapsed March 15th along Southwest 8th Street near 109th Avenue.

The freshman political science major, who dreamed of being a lawyer, was driving her vehicle along with friend Richard Humble when the bridge collapsed shortly before 2 p.m., trapping Duran inside. She died at the scene.

Humble, who suffered several injuries from the collapse, has also filed a similar lawsuit as a result of the tragedy. The lawsuit from the Duran family is the ninth that has been filed from survivors or the families of victims in the collapse. Attorneys say that both FIU, the city of Sweetwater and the Florida Department of Transportation would be added as defendants in the future.

During a Monday press conference detailing his lawsuit, Humble said he shouted Duran's name and ducked down as fast as he could. She died at the site of the collapse without ever responding to his screams.

"She wasn't saying anything. And I had her blood on me, and I didn't really know what to do," he said. "I looked up at her one more time. I saw just her hair, nothing else."

The bridge was well known to FIU students like Humble and Duran. Their university had celebrated its installation five days before the collapse with officials saying they were filled with pride for seeing a 950-ton concrete bridge that was prefabricated and quickly installed over a busy six-lane highway.

Angry at engineers, school officials and the government, Humble said more should have been done to protect drivers and pedestrians near the bridge after it was swung into place.

"There were human lives at risk. It's just something you shouldn't play with at all ... people including myself; from this point on they will be changed," he said.

Stuart Grossman, Humble's attorney, said his team is looking at the bidding process, the design and whether traffic should have been diverted the days that followed the installation. The construction of the bridge was behind schedule and over budget, partly because of a key change in the design and placement of one of its support towers north to the edge of a canal, documents have shown.

Duran's lawyers claim that the school was at risk of losing their federal grant due to delays and pressured companies to speed up the process. A call from one FIGG engineer to FDOT days before the collapse detailed some concerns over reported cracks.

“This was an innovative never-before-used design in America with people that were working it for the first time. They didn’t know fully how to handle the specifics," said attorney Alan Goldberg.

The cause of the collapse is not clear. Before the failure, crews were adjusting a tension rod on the north end of the bridge, and authorities continue to investigate whether cracking that was reported on the same side before the span fell contributed to the accident.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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