On the front page of today's Miami Herald is the heartbreaking story of a family irreversibly harmed by the FIU bridge collapse last year. On March 10, 2018, Kevin Hanson and his team had just raised a prefabricated bridge over 8th Street. Cracks began to appear in the bridge.
The chief engineer for the project told the Florida Department of Transportation about the fissures, but he assured officials that they weren't concerned about it. Five days later—one year ago today—the bridge collapsed. Five people under the bridge were killed, and one of the workers on top of the bridge suffered fatal injuries.
Kevin survived, but he was put into a medical coma shortly after being rushed to the hospital. He was "severely paralyzed" for several months; the doctors said he had serious brain damage.
"It was very hard to see him like that, just lying in the bed, not able to talk," said Kimberly Babbitt, Kevin's partner of 14 years. "We didn't know how much of Kevin we were going to get back. We still don't."
About five months ago, Kevin came out of his coma, which to doctors meant he was able to breathe, swallow, and remain conscious. However, he awoke with no memory of what happened. He has to "relearn everything. Like a baby; like an infant," Kimberly said. As Kevin's family figures out how to care for a man who cannot yet care for himself, they're looking for answers about what happened.
The Smoking Gun
A federal investigation into the cause of the bridge collapse has been underway for months. Its findings are expected to be released by early fall. The central questions investigators are asking are "who ordered the bridge's rods to be tightened?" and "why did they do that?"
"That's what caused the catastrophe," said David Beck, a bridge engineering expert. "It's the smoking gun."
Knowing it was the rods is only half an answer. There's still accounting for whether this was a fatal miscalculation—or negligence on the part of all of the company’s involved in the construction. If this accident was preventable, grieving and hurting families deserve to know. The case, which contains 18 plaintiffs against 25 defendants, has seen minimal progress.
Despite the best efforts of the court and some of the lawyers, "the case is moving at a glacial pace," said Attorney Gary Fox in the Miami Herald article. "This delay has prevented any form of closure and has been emotionally and spiritually draining."
Kevin has slowly been regaining his faculties while staying at a rehabilitation center in Sarasota. His recall has improved, both in terms of remembering the past and his loved ones. Kimberly does what she can to keep him mentally stimulated, often with games or crafts. Kevin's older sons (13 and 15) have switched to virtual school to spend more time with him.
“My children have their daddy, but don’t have their daddy at the same time,” Kimberly said. “He’s still with us, but not with us. So many parts of him have been stolen and remain missing.”