Bridge collapses into lake

July 6, 2009 4:31:04 AM PDT
A pedestrian bridge in Merrillville, Ind., collapsed following a fireworks show. Fifty people fell into the water below, and 25 were taken to the hospital. Investigators are working to determine exactly what happened. No one was killed and there were no life-threatening injuries.

Hidden Lake Park remains closed because of the collapse. Officials plan on removing the debris and continuing their investigation to figure out how and why that bridge became packed with several dozen people before it collapsed.

Merrillville resident Seth Argullin spoke about how he survived the bridge collapse that injured him and dozens of others.

"After the fireworks were done, we tried to cross the bridge and got a third of the way onto the bridge, and everybody stopped, and we were in the water," Argullin said.

The chaos began at 10:00 Satruday night at the end of the Fourth of July fireworks display at Hidden Lake Park when many used a 90-foot long bridge to leave.

Next thing there was a loud clank noise, and everybody started screaming.

Some 15 emergency vehicles, including dive teams joined the already present Merrillville police to respond to the scene as hundreds struggled to save themselves, children and friends from the lake's waters. Volunteer firefighter Phil Topor was one of the first responders.

"There was people laying on the ground. There was a lot of pandemonium, people screaming and crying. People were in the water. Our first reaction was to jump in the water," Topor said.

Over a dozen people were taken to local hospitals. In the meantime, officials say an investigation indicates there was a structural failure of the renovated suspension bridge because it was overloaded.

"The police officers were there and somehow you ended up with that number of people on the bridge. And we are very sorry," Ross Township Trustee John Rooda said.

Still, one woman whose niece remains hospitalized, blames the town for what she says didn't have to happen.

"They invite the families to come in. We are thinking we are coming to a safe place," Diana Rodriguez said.

In the collapse, many lost some or all of their personal items. When the facility reopens tomorrow at 10:00, they have established a lost and found so people can retrieve personal items. Authorities say because this has not happened before, when they reconstruct the bridge, there isn't any reason why there won't be fireworks here again.


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