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Federal investigators seek clues after Pittsburgh bridge collapse

(CNN) — National Transportation Safety Board investigators descended Saturday into a wooded ravine in Pittsburgh where a snow-covered bridge collapsed one day earlier.

Investigators also flew a drone over the area in search of answers as to why the 52-year-old steel frame bridge collapsed in the predawn darkness Friday, leaving 10 people with what authorities said were injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

The collapsed happened hours before a previously scheduled visit to the city by President Joe Biden to discuss infrastructure.

On a scheduled visit Friday to Kansas City, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called the collapse “a very blunt reminder” of the need to invest in American roads and bridges.

“The bottom line is this shouldn’t happen in the United States of America,” Buttigieg said of the collapse, CNN affiliate KMBC reported.

The 13-member NTSB team arrived on the scene late Friday afternoon.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said structural and material engineers would map out the area with a drone before removing debris and other evidence.

The engineers will look for signs of stress in the materials that made up the bridge as well as fractures and deterioration, according to Dennis Collins, board investigator-in-charge.

Four vehicles were on the bridge when it fell in the area of Forbes and Braddock avenues, authorities said.

First responders used ropes to rappel down to get to the victims, Fire Chief Darryl Jones said. Crews also used what he called a “daisy chain” where they linked hands to reach the victims and pull them out.

Biden visited the site of the collapse Friday afternoon. During a speech at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 Friday afternoon, the president said the collapsed bridge “had been rated in poor condition for the past 10 years.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Friday on CNN called the bridge a “vital artery” in the Pittsburgh area. The bridge crosses Frick Park, one of the city’s largest parks.

The bridge had received an “overall condition” rating of “poor,” according to the website for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which tracks bridges across the state.

The 447-foot bridge was built in 1970 on a steel rigid frame, according to the website.

The PennDOT website said the condition of the deck, or road surface, was rated “4 – Poor,” as was the superstructure condition. The substructure condition was rated “6 – Satisfactory.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said the bridge had last been inspected in September 2021.

Some “rehab” work had been done to the bridge a couple of years ago, including repaving the surface, according to City Councilmember Corey O’Connor.