Pittsburgh bridge collapses hours before Biden tour on infrastructure

Pittsburgh bridge collapses hours before Biden tour on infrastructure
First responders ‘rapelled down using ropes’ to get to some of those on the bridge, fire chief says

A bridge has collapsed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania just hours before President Joe Biden is set to speak about infrastructure in the city.

Fire Chief Darryl Jones said that there were 10 minor injuries and that “three were transported” for care. He said some injuries were caused by “slips and falls” but that everybody is okay.

Pittsburgh Public Safety said that a gas line was cut after people at the scene sensed a strong smell of natural gas.

The agency reported a “confirmed bridge collapse” at around 6.50am. A photo from the area shows about five vehicles on the collapsed bridge, including a bus on an incline. Two people were on the bus, the driver and a passenger.

Pittsburgh Public Safety told residents to “please avoid” the area “if at all possible”.

KDKA reported that homes in the area were being evacuated due to the smell of natural gas, but Chief Jones later added that the situation was under control.

Democratic Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey told reporters that the bridge was last inspected in September of last year.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that Mr Biden “has been told of the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh. Our team is in touch with state and local officials on the ground as they continue to gather information about the cause of the collapse”.

She added that Mr Biden “is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time. The president will proceed with [the] trip planned for today and will stay in touch with officials on the ground about additional assistance we can provide”.

Alleghany County Rich Fitzgerald told reporters at the scene that “people are going to need a lot of help with utilities”.

Mr Gainey said infrastructure improvements are needed, and that the “bipartisan infrastructure law is critical to southwest Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. We know we have bridges that we need to take care of”.

“At the end of the day, we could have had some serious injuries,” he added.

The mayor said that it’s “critical that we get this funding, and we’re glad to have the president coming today”.

Chief Jones said shortly before 9am that “right now, we are stepping down operations and sending some of the units back home,” but he added that the emergency services “will be here for a while”.

“We still have to do a little bit of recon and make sure that no one was under the structure when it collapsed. There was a massive gas leak caused by the collapse that is now under control. Several families were evacuated from their homes,” he said. “They have been allowed back. We were told by the gas company that all their gas service has been restored.”

He added that first responders “repelled down using ropes” to get to some of those on the bridge.

“Firefighters that were here initially on the scene also did like a daisy chain with hands just grabbing people and pulling them up. So it was a physical rescue,” Chief Jones said.

Area resident Wendy Stroh told KDKA that the bridge collapse “sounded like a huge snow plow … pushing along the surface with no snow”.

“I didn’t know what it was … It was very frightening,” she added.

Democratic Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman told CNN that he has “driven across this bridge thousands of times … it’s surreal, the entire span of the bridge has collapsed”.

According to the White House, Mr Biden will speak in Pittsburgh at 2pm on Friday about “strengthening the nation’s supply chains, revitalizing American manufacturing, creating good-paying union jobs, and building a better America, including through the bipartisan infrastructure law”.