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The Florida International University Bridge Disaster – Some background information.

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When I heard about the disaster today one of my thoughts was “How could such a failure occur with today’s engineering knowledge, materials and tools?”  A little digging revealed some interesting facts. .

Synopsis:

  • Several individuals from Florida International University were investigated for shady dealings regarding bridge construction.
  • The construction company and engineering company had some previous problems on this project and others.
  • The construction involved a technique described as some as being risky. It is an accelerated method of deploying bridges.
  • There is nothing to prove that there was any wrongdoing in the case of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge but the previous involvement of high ranking university officials in shady bridge dealings certainly raises some questions.

I started by searching for “Florida international university Bridge contract”. Here is a story from  the Sun Sentinel  entitled Fort Lauderdale Bridge Contract Scrutinized.:

The gist of this article was that there were allegations of some wrongdoing regarding steering contracts to a selected company. This was about other bridges, not the collapsed pedestrian bridge.

A Fort Lauderdale investigation found evidence a city official steered a bridge engineering contract to a former business partner’s company, . . .

Former Assistant City Engineer Pedram Zohrevand and former Public Works Director Hardeep Anand each had a relationship with Engin-Ovation’s officers that they did not disclose, investigators said

OK, a little favoritism on a bridge related contract.  Now the connection with the Florida International University:

In January 2015, Zohrevand created a corporation, SES4 LLC, with Anand’s wife, Preeti Anand, and Faezeh Sarram, the city report said. Sarram is the wife of Amir Mirmiran, a former Florida International University dean who was Zohrevand’s dissertation supervisor and who collaborated with Zohrevand on numerous research projects.

Here is some more from an article in the Miami Herald entitled  Fort Lauderdale Bridge Contract Scrutinized.  (FIU is Florida International University)

An unusual bridge-repair contract in the city of Fort Lauderdale has sparked a criminal investigation — and those involved have ties to Miami-Dade County and Florida International University.

In January of last year, Anand’s wife partnered with Zohrevand to create a company, SES4 LLC. Also partnering in that business: the wife of Amir Mirmiran, the former FIU dean.

 

The company was short-lived — it was dissolved a month later. Then the dean’s wife created Engin-Ovation, which landed the city bridge work.

 

The city’s investigative memo says what happened with the bridge contract could be criminal in nature, with possible charges including unlawful compensation (second-degree felony) or official misconduct (third-degree felony). The matter has been referred to the Broward State Attorney’s office.

Note -this is probably NOT about the pedestrian bridge that collapsed BUT it does indicate shady dealings in bridge building associated with individuals with connections to FIU.

Also connected to the investigation is former FIU engineering dean Amir Mirmiran. It was a company run by Mirmiran’s wife that landed the city contract — even though it had just been incorporated, and had no track record.

You have an engineering company working with bridges and they have no track record.

The construction company  for the collapsed pedestrian bridge was Munilla Construction Company , The designer was Figg.  Neither of these companies have any apparent ties to the scandal outlined above.

A Data Sheet provides some details about the construction of the pedestrian bridge.

According to CBS News there were problems with both the construction firm and the engineering company. (although most construction/engineering firms have SOME issues)

Two of the firms that built the bridge have been accused of unsafe practices, CBS News’ Jim Axelrod reports.

Ten days ago, MCM was sued in South Florida by a TSA employee who was hurt at the Fort Lauderdale airport. The employee’s lawyer alleges that a makeshift bridge MCM built for workers to use while the company does construction at the airport broke under his weight.

As for FIGG, a 90-ton portion of a bridge the company was assembling in Virginia in June 2012 fell apart while under construction. The Virginian Pilot reports four workers were hurt and that state regulators fined FIGG $28,000 for safety violations saying it was “pure luck no one was killed.”

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Was it an unfortunate result of cutting edge technology or was favoritism at fault?

 

 

 

 

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