Searching for Answers

Searching for Answers

At a press conference earlier today, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Mark Rosenker outlined the plan to investigate the I-35W bridge collapse.

"We are in the documentation phase of our investigation," he said. "Right now, we are concerned with gathering the facts."

Rosenker detailed five components of what is sure to be a lengthy and arduous investigation:

  • Human Factor group: will examine the emotional and psychological impacts wrought by the tragedy.
  • Design group: will search out possible flaws in the bridge's engineering.
  • Construction group: will assess the quality of materials that comprised the bridge.
  • Survival Factor group: will seek to explain, as Rosenker put it, "why some cars survived while others didn't."
  • Human Performance group: will evaluate the performances of various employees and agencies.

After the facts are gathered, the investigation will enter the analysis phase, which Rosenker expects may last a year or more. The investigation will be helped by both the video of the bridge's fall as well as a computer model of the I-35W bridge that an employee of the Federal Highway Administration designed while pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. The program takes into account all of the bridge's structural components and can make predictions accordingly.

"We'll take apart every one of the elements (in the model bridge) that creates the picture we now know. This will speed up our understanding of which one of the components failed," Rosenker said.

Rosenker declined to provide the name of the FHA employee responsible for the computer model, but estimated that the program's existence will save investigators months of work.

"We're not ruling anything out," he concluded. "We want to begin ruling things in."

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