Minn. Bridge Death Toll Rises to Eight Confirmed

August 13, 2007

Divers took another body from the wreckage of a freeway bridge, shrinking to five the number of people known missing and presumed dead in the collapse.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Friday, Aug. 10th pledged $50 million to help Minnesota with its recovery and rebuilding.

With the recovery of three bodies in just over 24 hours, the number of known dead in the Aug. 1 collapse rose to eight. Officials identified the three people found Thursday and Friday as Peter Hausmann, 47, of Rosemount; Sadiya Sahal, 23, of St. Paul; and her 2-year-old daughter, Hanah Sahal. All three had been on the list of missing.

The medical examiner initially said remains found Thursday night might have belonged to two people, but later clarified that Hanah Sadal was found Thursday and her mother on Friday.

Sadiya Sahal, who was five months pregnant, was on her way to pick up a friend who needed a ride to work when the bridge collapsed. The nursing student had moved to the Twin Cities from Somalia in 2000.

During her visit, Peters stood near a fallen section of the bridge cluttered by wrecked cars as she announced the latest emergency aid. The funds are an advance on $250 million approved by Congress but not yet appropriated.

The money comes on top of $5 million in federal emergency aid pledged right after the Aug. 1 bridge collapse and $5 million to help the public transit system handle the loss of the heavily traveled span.

The secretary later stopped by a bus garage to promise another $5 million for transit. Transit officials have added express bus routes since the collapse and said the federal money will help cover the costs. The Interstate 35W bridge carried 140,000 vehicles a day, making it one of Minnesota’s busiest.

The federal money will help pay for dive operations, debris removal, preparation for reconstruction, traffic detours and other costs, Peters said.

Investigators received a still photograph of the bridge taken by someone flying overhead before it fell, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said Thursday. He said that the picture clearly showed where loads and equipment were on the bridge, and that it will help with the analysis of what caused the collapse.

If investigators identify any “glaring safety gap” that might apply to other bridges, they will alert authorities nationwide to prevent a similar tragedy, Rosenker said.

Nine survivors remained hospitalized Friday. The one remaining victim who had been in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center was upgraded to serious condition Friday morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Eight survivors are still hospitalized at HCMC, five in serious condition and three in satisfactory condition, while one remained at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in good condition.

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski and Archie Ingersoll contributed to this report.

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