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First responders formed a human chain to rescue people from collapsed Pittsburgh bridge

A segmented bus landed 150 feet down a large crack that showed on the end of the bridge and a car landed upside down in front of the bus.

First responders formed a human chain to rescue people from collapsed Pittsburgh bridge
Cover Image Source: Vehicles including a Port Authority bus are left stranded after a bridge collapsed along Forbes Avenue on January 28, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Ten people were injured when a snow-covered bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed Friday morning, just hours before President Joe Biden's scheduled visit to speak about infrastructure. According to city officials, the 50-year-old Forbes Avenue bridge over Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park came down at 6:39 a.m., reports Associated Press. Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said at a news conference that the injuries were "minor" and that although three people were transported to the hospital from the scene, none of their injuries were life-threatening. Three of those hurt in the collapse were a driver and two passengers who were on a bus when the bridge collapsed, reports NBC News.


Daryl Luciani, who drove the segmented bus operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, told reporters that as soon as he reached the bridge, he realized it was collapsing. "I could just feel it," Luciani said. "The bus was bouncing and shaking and it seems long, but it was probably less than a minute that the bus finally came to a stop, and I was just thankful that nobody on the bus was hurt." The segmented bus landed 150 feet down a large crack that showed on the end of the bridge and a car—operated by the Pittsburgh area’s transit agency—landed upside down in front of the bus.


Since the passengers appeared to be OK, Luciani said, he pulled the air brake and waited for help to arrive. First responders who arrived at the scene reached them by rappelling down a ravine with flashlights and forming a human chain to help the driver and other occupants get to safety. Adam Brandolph, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, said that one of the passengers was on another bus about two hours after the collapse when they began complaining of injuries and was immediately taken to a hospital. 


The bus reportedly started its route in downtown Pittsburgh and was heading to the suburban community of Braddock. "Judging by the time of day, had this bus been traveling inbound, toward downtown, there likely would have been more people on the bus and obviously could have been a much, much more dire situation," Brandolph said. Built in 1970, the steel bridge is an important artery that leads to the Squirrel Hill and Oakland neighborhoods and is a popular route toward downtown Pittsburgh. As per a 2005 estimate, it carries about 14,500 vehicles a day.


Fortunately, a weather-prompted two-hour school delay on Friday may have prevented a far worse human tragedy, said local residents. Witnesses revealed that the loud noise from the collapse was followed by a hissing sound and the smell of natural gas. "The first sound was much more intense, and kind of a rumbling, which I guess was the structure, the deck hitting the ground," said Ken Doyno, a resident who lives four houses away. "I mean, the whole house rattled at that point." Meanwhile, ruptured gas lines along the bridge produced the leak and the supply of gas was shut off within a half-hour, city officials said.


Residents who live near the collapsed bridge confirmed that a gas company worker went door to door to get them to evacuate from the immediate vicinity before the gas was successfully shut off. "Apart from just this abiding noise, we could begin to smell gas and that was the truly frightening thing, then with that smell we both said, let's get dressed and get out of here," said Lyn Krynski, whose home is nearest the bridge. "It sounded like a weather phenomenon more than anything," said Douglas Gwilym, who was shoveling snow when he heard the noise. "It was all I had to compare it to — it was this odd, whooshing sound."


Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called the site of the collapse "just an awful, surreal scene." He added that he hopes the incident serves as "a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments." Mayor Gainey expressed similar hopes during a press conference on Friday morning, saying that what happened underscores why infrastructure funding is crucial. "We know we have bridges that we need to take care of," he said. "At the end of the day, this is critical that we get this funding. We're glad to have the president coming today."


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