Company behind collapsed pedestrian bridge also designed Sunshine Skyway, Selmon bridges

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One of the main companies responsible for the construction of the now-collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University was also involved in designing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to an archive of its website.

Munilla Construction Management, or MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, took its website down temporarily Thursday. But an archived version of the site featured a news release touting the project with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a firm based in Tallahassee.

"This our first Design-Build with FIGG Bridge Engineers, a nationally acclaimed, award-winning firm based out of Tallahassee. FIGG has designed iconic bridges all over the country, including Boston's famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge."

FIGG's website has a page dedicated to its design of the Skyway, as well as the Selmon Expressway, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, Atlanta's MARTA railway, and a bridge in Virginia, part of which collapsed in 2012, injuring several workers.

After the collapse, MCM said on Twitter that it was "a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."

FIGG issued a press release saying the firm was "stunned" and “In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before."

“Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident," FIGG Engineering wrote. "We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”

But FIGG was fined in 2012 after a 90-ton section of a bridge it was building in Virginia crashed onto railroad tracks below, causing minor injuries to several workers. The 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 a story in The Virginian-Pilot.

Court documents show that MCM was accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit said a worker at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where the company is working on an expansion, was injured when a makeshift MCM-built bridge collapsed under his weight.

The suit accused the company of employing "incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled or careless employees" at the job site.

A review of Occupational Safety Health Administration records shows that MCM has been fined for 11 safety violations in the last five years. The fines totaling more than $50,000 arose from complaints about unsafe trenches, cement dust and other problems at its Florida work sites.

FDOT released information Thursday evening saying, due to the unique characteristics of the bridge, an independent, secondary review of the bridge's design was required and should be conducted by an FDOT pre-qualified firm. However,  the firm chosen by FIU to carry out the secondary check, Louis Berger, was not FDOT pre-qualified.

Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and construction management at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Associated Press it was too early to know exactly what caused the bridge to collapse, but the decision to use what the bridge builders called an "innovative installation" was risky, especially because the bridge spanned a heavily traveled thoroughfare.

"Innovations take a design firm into an area where they don't have applicable experience, and then we have another unexpected failure on our hands," Bea said after reviewing the bridge's design and photos of the collapse.