The National Transportation Safety Board says that a design flaw is what led to undersized gusset plates holding the steel beams on Interstate 35-W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota to snap and the bridge to collapse into the Mississippi River last August. More than 100 people were injured and 13 others were killed.
According to NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker, investigators discovered 16 fractured gusset plates—which were reportedly half the thickness that they need to be and were installed that way. Rosenker said investigators could not locate the design calculations to determine the source of the design flaw. He also stated that there was no evidence to indicate that corrosion, cracking, or other wear was responsible for the bridge collapse.
Investigators have suggested that a construction going on at the bridge at the time of the accident may have been put much weight and pressure on the bridge’s structure.
After the accident in August, Minnesota officials said that the eight-lane bridge, open since 1967, had passed inspections for years—albeit without flying colors. During a 2006 inspection, the Minneapolis Bridge rated a 4 out of 9 for its supporting structure, which was in reportedly poor condition.
As far back as 1990, the federal government had categorized the bridge as structurally deficient. The bridge, like many bridges built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, was missing the redundant protection needed to reduce the types of single structural failures that can cause the bridge to come crashing down.
When flaws in the design of a product results in serious injuries, the manufacturer of the product, the companies that installed or made the product available for use, and the person responsible for authorizing the product’s use can be held liable in a products liability lawsuit.
The owner of an unsafe premise—whether public or private—can also be held liable if a person is injured on a property because the premise itself or a condition on the premise was unsafe, hazardous, or improperly maintained. A premises liability lawsuit may even name a local, state, or federal government entity if the plaintiff has grounds to hold them responsible for the injuries or deaths.
NTSB: Minneapolis bridge that collapsed had design flaw, CNN.com, January 15, 2008
Design Flaw Said to Have Caused Minn. Bridge to Collapse, Washington Post, January 15, 2008
Minneapolis Bridge Had Passed Inspections, New York Times, August 3, 2007
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