A clearer picture of the missing in bridge collapseby Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
The Minneapolis Police Department has released the names of eight people missing in the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. Families of some of the missing visited the collapse site Saturday. Divers are searching the murky river waters for victims. Five people are confirmed dead in Wednesday's bridge collapse. No bodies were recovered Saturday.
Minneapolis — Police department investigators say they have reliable information which place the eight in the area of the bridge when it collapsed.
A news release lists the missing as Richard Chit, Peter Hausmann, Greg Jolstad, Vera Peck, Christina Sacorafas, Sadia Adam Sahal, Hannah Sahal and Scott Sathers.
The leader of the Minneapolis Police Department investigation of the bridge collapse says information on the eight include license-plate numbers from submerged cars but also cell phone records.
Captain Mike Martin says the decision to release the names was made jointly by the families of the eight and the police.
"The families agreed that they had no problem with that," he said. "They wanted to put a human face on the people that were there. For the investigation it helps us because there's a lot of speculation about who the people are. It takes some of the pressure off of people to release some of these names."
The police also released some details about the missing. Greg Jolstad was part of the crew working on the bridge when it collapsed. Vera Peck and Richard Chit are mother and son. Sadia Adam Sahal and two-year-old Hannah are mother and daughter.
Some family members traveled by bus to the collapse site Saturday, according to Martin. He says the trip gave them a sense of the scope of the disaster.
"They were able to see the divers working. Able to see the perimeter that was set up. Able to see the difficulties in traversing the structure. Just the incredible effort that is taking place," says Martin.
The divers the family saw have been at work from morning to sunset since the bridge went down. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says so far divers have located and searched nine submerged cars. He says the passengers in eight of those cars have been accounted for. What happened to the person or persons riding in the ninth vehicle is still unknown.
Speaking at the flats area of the Mississippi River near the University of Minnesota, Stanek says a crane lifted that car out of the water Saturday.
"We have now taken that vehicle out of of the river, placed it on top of a barge and it will be transported to shore for further examination," says Stanek. "It is heavily damaged. They've described it as being crushed almost into a V."
Stanek says searchers did not find any human remains inside the vehicle. The car was eventually moved to the Minneapolis impound lot. The Hennepin County sheriff says the divers are searching the river water in almost zero visibility.
Stanek says the dangerous working conditions were underscored when a diver ran into problems Saturday. The diver, Eric Herman, had met with President Bush early in the day. He told the president about the dangerous working conditions. Stanek says shortly after meeting the president, he went back to work and got hung up on a submerged vehicle. The sheriff says after some tense moments, his fellow divers were able to pull him free.
"That's why we use teams of three. We have one diver in the water at a time," says Stanek. "We have another diver that's right there to work with him and assist him when he gets tangled up. And then we have another diver on the barge that's what they call 90-percent ready. All he's got to do is throw on a mask and he's good to go."
Stanek says that divers are almost finished searching upstream of the collapse. They could begin turning their attention to the downstream part of the search on Sunday.
While the searchers continue their work, efforts are under way to build a replacement bridge. Congress and the President are expected to provide $250 million for a new structure. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says that's appreciated, but there may be a need for more federal money.
"We view the 250 as a wonderful gesture and a very, very meaningful step. But we also may be asking them, will be asking them for additional help," Pawlenty said.
Bridge industry analysts say the cost of building a new Interstate-35W bridge could be as high as $350 million. During a news conference in the park by the old Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Pawlenty said he wants the new bridge finished as quickly as possible. While the governor spoke a steady stream of people walked by to view what they could see of the collapsed bridge.