August 10, 2007 in Nation/World

More bodies pulled from bridge wreckage

Patrick Condon Associated Press
 

MINNEAPOLIS – Divers pulled at least two more bodies from the wreckage of the collapsed Mississippi River bridge Thursday, bringing the disaster’s confirmed death toll to seven, more than a week after the span crumbled.

Later, authorities said one of those sets of remains might actually include another victim, which would bring the toll to eight if that is confirmed.

The first victim recovered Thursday was identified as Peter Joseph Hausmann, 47, of Rosemount.

Authorities believe they know the victims’ identities from the other remains, and that they were on the list of missing in the Aug. 1 collapse, said Andrew Baker, chief medical examiner for Hennepin County. They were not immediately identified.

Crews have been searching for at least eight people missing and presumed killed in the collapse, including a mother and her young daughter and another woman and her adult son.

Hausmann was a computer security specialist and a former missionary who met his wife, Helen, in Kenya. The evening of the collapse, he was heading to the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park to pick up a friend for dinner.

Hausmann called home while sitting in traffic, but the line went dead.

As searchers combed the river for victims, federal officials looking into the cause of the collapse issued an advisory for states to inspect the metal plates, or gussets, that hold girders together on bridges nationwide.

Investigators said the gussets on the failed Minneapolis bridge were originally attached with rivets – old technology more likely to slip than the bolts used in bridges today.

Some of the gussets also may have been weakened by welding work over the years, and some may have been too thin, engineering experts said Thursday.

Questions about the gussets prompted Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to caution states about stress placed on bridges during construction projects.

Investigators are also looking at whether extra weight from construction work could have affected the bridge. An 18-person crew had been working on the Interstate 35W span when it collapsed during the evening rush hour.

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