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NTSB launching investigation into how, why Pittsburgh bridge collapsed

PITTSBURGH — A team of more than a dozen investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Pittsburgh late Friday. Their mission: comb through the debris field left behind to find out why the bridge at Frick Park crumbled.

“I do want to take a few moments that while we are very fortunate that there were no fatalities as a result of this bridge collapse, there were injuries,” NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said. “This was certainly very tragic and something that I’m certain that those involved are still processing. Our hearts are with you.”

PHOTOS: Bridge collapse near Pittsburgh’s Frick Park

On Friday evening, Homendy and 12 others peered out over what once was a bustling thoroughfare for people in the city’s eastern neighborhoods. She said a crash reconstructionist is on the way and that the team first needs to map the entire area.

The NTSB is in charge of investigating significant events related to transportation and infrastructure, she said, finding out how and why incidents happened, preventing them from happening again and to document the scene.

The investigator in charge, Dennis Collins, said they will coordinate with local agencies, map the scene and then start removing concrete, steel and vehicles left in the ravine.

While too early to tell what happened in this case, Collins described the investigation as “removing layers of an onion.” He said engineers will start by looking for signs of stress in the materials of the bridge, signs of fracture, signs of deterioration and even signs of rust.

Collins said every collapse is different and they will not know anything until they get into the debris.

NTSB officials said they aim for 12-18 months to complete an investigation but it could be longer depending on the difficulty.

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