2 firms involved in building bridge that fell, killing 6, had past accusations

At least two firms involved in the construction of a pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University, killing 6 people, have previously been accused of unsafe practices that resulted in people being injured, documents show.

Figg Bridge Engineers, the firm that designed the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge in Miami, was also involved in the construction of a bridge in Virginia of which a 90-ton section collapsed in 2012 while it was under construction, according to the Virginian Pilot. The bridge, which was being built over a river between Chesapeake and Portsmouth, Virginia, collapsed onto railroad tracks below, causing minor injuries to workers, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry confirmed to ABC News.

The state cited the firm for not properly inspecting a girder for the bridge and had not obtained written consent from the manufacturer before modifying it, the Pilot reported.

Jay Withrow, director of the legal support division for Virginia’s state labor department, said his agency was not alleging that the behavior covered by the citation contributed to the failure of the equipment in the bridge collapse, according to the Pilot.

“Trying to figure out what failed in what sequence is difficult,” Withrow said. “We’re not saying one way or another whether [the alleged violations] had anything to do with the accident at this point.”

Figg’s project manager, W. Jay Rohleder, released a written statement stressing that the incident had no bearing on the stability of the bridge, the Pilot reported.

“The incident that occurred during construction was a construction equipment property damage issue that had nothing to do with the final bridge,” Rohleder said. “The proposed citation is not related to the structural integrity of the completed project in any way and is not the reason the erection truss required replacing.”

Virginia slapped the firm with a $28,000 fine, which was reduced to $9,800 through negotiations, according to OSHA documents.

Another company involved in the building of the Florida International University bridge, Munilla Construction Management, has also had at least one prior allegation connected to its work.

The company, based in Miami, was sued earlier this month by a federal Transportation Security Administration officer at Fort Lauderdale International Airport who alleges that a temporary bridge walkway put up by Munilla to allow airport workers to access restrooms during construction collapsed beneath him, resulting in severe injuries, according to the TSA officer’s lawyer and his lawsuit.

The construction firm has not yet responded to the lawsuit in court.

ABC News reached out to Munilla and Figg Bridge Engineers, but both companies have yet to respond beyond public statements released about the Miami bridge collapse.

“We are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong,” Munilla said in a statement.

Figg said in its statement that it will “fully cooperate with every appropriate authority” and that “in our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before.”

ABC News’ Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

Go to Source