On August 1, during a Wednesday evening rush hour commute, a highway bridge in downtown Minneapolis collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River, 60 feet below. At least 50 vehicles fell with the bridge, some plunging into the river below while others remained on collapsed sections. Thirteen people died in the tragedy and about 100 were injured.
A school bus filled with over 50 kids was on the bridge at the time it collapsed. The bus fell with a section of the bridge in a 30-foot freefall. Incredibly, all the children survived, and none were seriously injured.
The bridge was built in 1967. It was 8 lanes wide and about 1,000 feet long. When it collapsed, the bridge broke into three sections. The reason for the collapse is still being investigated, but records show that the bridge was determined to be structurally unsound as early as 1990. Inspectors had found cracks in the bridge’s steel supports. They recommended adding metal plating over the cracks to add support, but the repairs had not been made at the time the bridge collapsed.
Just a few days later, hoping to avoid another such tragedy, states across the country rushed to inspect their own bridges, starting with those designed similarly to the Minneapolis bridge.
Image credit: © Craig Lassig/epa/Corbis
- Remains of last missing person recovered in bridge collapse
Article on the recovery of the last missing person from the bridge collapse—Gregory Jolstad. He was part of a construction crew that was resurfacing the bridge. Crews will now begin removing the collapsed sections of the bridge. (Source: CNN, August 20, 2007)
- Divers suspend Minneapolis search
Report on divers suspending the search for survivors in the water because of darkness. Includes good overall coverage of the bridge collapse, eyewitness accounts, and what will be done to ensure other bridges do not collapse. (Source: BBC, August 3, 2007)
- Blaming begins in Minneapolis bridge collapse
Report on the reasons the bridge was not properly maintained. (Source: Reuters, August 3, 2007)
- How the bridge fell apart
Illustration of the bridge, labeled with the steps in its collapse and a description of the reasons for the collapse. (Source: Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2007)
Critical Thinking Questions
- Summarize Explain how and why investigators believe the bridge collapsed.
- Draw Conclusions What can authorities do to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future? What obstacles stand in the way of them accomplishing this goal?
- Evaluate Consider the rescue effort and the attempts authorities have made to figure out what went wrong. Have authorities reacted quickly and appropriately to this tragedy?