Final Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Victim Found In Mississippi River

The last victim of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse was pulled from the Mississippi River yesterday, bringing the death toll from the tragedy to 13. Now that all of the missing are accounted for, crews will start removing the rest of the collapsed I-35 W Bridge from the river.

Last night, Navy divers recovered the body of 45-year-old Gregory Jolstad. Jolstad, a construction worker, had been working on the Minneapolis Bridge when it collapsed on August 1. Jolstad was the last person known to be missing from the <"">I-35 W Bridge collapse. However, the Hennepin County Sherriff’s Department was not ruling out the possibility that other remains could be found in the wreckage. Though Navy dive teams would be leaving the area today, the Sherriff’s office said that it would maintain a presence at the site in case more victims are recovered.

Now, work crews will begin the difficult task of removing wreckage from the Mississippi River. The search for victims had stalled the work, and the only pieces of debris removed were those that impeded the search for bodies. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) said that it hopes to have most of the debris cleared by the weekend. MNDOT said that it was committed to having the Mississippi River channel opened to boats soon.

Also on Monday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty asked President Bush to declare the site of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse a major disaster. Such a move would make Minnesota eligible for more federal aid. The Governor’s Office said that clean-up of the site of the I-35 W Bridge disaster would cost in excess of $8 million.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the Minneapolis Bridge collapse. The NTSB will likely reconstruct portions of the I-35 W Bridge from the recovered wreckage to aid in its investigation. Investigators are said to be casting a suspicious eye on construction that had been taking place on the Minneapolis Bridge prior to the collapse. Reports also indicated that NTSB investigators might have found a design flaw in the steel gusset plates that were used to bind the bridge trusses together. The NTSB has said that it could be more than a year before investigators release a final report on the Minneapolis Bridge collapse.

Meanwhile, MNDOT is moving quickly to replace the collapsed I-35 W Bridge. Last week, MNDOT revealed preliminary designs for the replacement bridge, which the agency hopes to have in place by the end of 2008. The new bridge would be twice as wide as the collapsed Minneapolis Bridge and would span 10 lanes instead of 8. MNDOT said that construction on the new bridge must begin before winter if it is to be in place by 2008.

The I-35 W Bridge collapsed on August 1, at 6:05 p.m. It was the height of Minneapolis’ evening rush hour, and cars were lined up bumper-to- bumper across the span. At least 88 vehicles and hundreds of people fell 60 feet into the Mississippi River below. A total of 13 people are confirmed dead as a result of the collapse, and at least 100 others were injured.

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