4 dead, 79 injured, 20 missing after dozens of vehicles plummet into river

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2007 - 8:24 AM
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A rescue worker enters a car in the water to search for a victim after the collapse.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Emergency crews have resumed their recovery and clean up efforts at the scene of the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed during rush hour Wednesday evening.

Authorities lowered the number of confirmed fatalities to four, but said they expect the number to change throughout the day.

Doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center said at a news conference this morning that 79 people were injured in the disaster.

One of them died around midnight of blunt force trauma, consistent with chest injuries from falling 64 feet.

Fifty-five people were transported to area hospitals including 24 to HCMC. Six of those had life-threatening injuries, 10 were listed in satisfactory condition and eight were treated and released.

Twenty-four people made it to hospitals on their own.

Dr. John Hick, who was one of the first responders to the bridge collapse, said "It's somewhat of a miracle that (the number of injuries and fatalities) was that low."

Hick also praised work done by passersby and people in area who jumped in to assist police and paramedics with evacuating injured.

Dr. William Heegaard, who operated on some of the injured, said the hospital cleared out 25 rooms in ICU to deal with the expected flood of injuries.

He said at one point the hospital had 10 operating rooms available and that a number of surgeries were performed. "They were in shock, they were happy to be alive, but they felt sad for all the people they had seen," he said.

Doctors said the types of injuries dealt with included head, arm, leg internal injuries

"They may make it, but some of the may not, said Dr. Douglas Brunette.

Police Chief Tim Dolan said at a news conference this morning that 20 to 30 people were still missing.

Dolan said many vehicles were still in the water.

"The recovery involving those vehicles and the people who may be in those vehicles is going to take a long time," Dolan said. "We're dealing with the Mississippi River. We're dealing with currents, and we're going to have to do it slowly and safely."

Police Lt. Amelia Huffman said the number of confirmed fatalities had been lowered from seven to four. "This morning, the medical examiner's office only has four sets of remains," she said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the police department's number is based on the medical examiner's information, but he still considers there to be seven fatalities — and he expects more.

"I think you can expect that to be a dynamic situation for a while," he said.

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  • Melissa Hughes clinched a child near the scene of the I-35W bridge collapse; Melissa was driving the red car in the background of photo.

  • Rescue workers prepared to search a submerged vehicle in the Mississippi River that had been on the Interstate 35W bridge when it collapsed just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

  • The wreckage on the west end of the bridge.

  • Looking north at construction of the Interstate Hwy 35W bridge, July 1967.

  • Melissa Hughes clinched a child near the scene of the I-35W bridge collapse; Melissa was driving the red car in the background of photo.

  • Rescue workers prepared to search a submerged vehicle in the Mississippi River that had been on the Interstate 35W bridge when it collapsed just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

  • The wreckage on the west end of the bridge.

  • Looking north at construction of the Interstate Hwy 35W bridge, July 1967.

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