Election '18

Rick Scott's Administration Lied About State Officials' Role In Deadly Bridge Collapse: Report

The Florida Department of Transportation is still not giving a straight story about the FIU bridge collapse that killed six people.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (Flickr)

After March's tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that killed six people and injured nine others, and subsequent federal fines of contractors over "serious" safety violations, Gov. Rick Scott's administration was quick to absolve itself of blame.

According to the governor's office, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) played no role in approving the bridge other than issuing traffic permits, and furthermore the engineer who could have inspected the bridge was out of the office at the time the contractors left him a message about the giant cracks that were forming in the structure.

This story in and of itself would suggest a failure of communication at FDOT. But according to the Miami Herald, the whole story might be a lie:

In fact, the FDOT engineer, Thomas Andres, was present in the office on March 15, according to a copy of his calendar obtained by the Miami Herald through a public-records request and first reported by television station NBC6.

And nearly two years before the collapse, that same engineer expressed concerns in writing to the bridge's design-build team that its design left it vulnerable to cracking, NBC6 also reported. Andres' deep familiarity with the plans suggests the state played a far more significant role than it has so far acknowledged.

Scott's communications director immediately pushed back, blasting the Herald for "picking apart the timing of a voicemail left on an employee's landline that communicated no life-safety issues."

FDOT is still blocking the release of public records, including those of a meeting to discuss cracks in the bridge. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, against whom Scott is running in the November election, has called for the National Transportation Safety Board to force the release of the records.

The FIU bridge disaster is not the first that Scott's critics say stem from failures of his leadership. Some observers say Florida's outbreak of red tide, a toxic algae bloom that is killing fish and damaging beaches, has been exacerbated by Scott's $700 million in cuts to water management districts, and failure to control fertilizer runoff in Lake Okeechobee.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.