Rescue teams remember I-35W bridge collapse at wreath ceremony

Published 7:33 am Thursday, July 20, 2017

By George Dornbach FM

Minneapolis — For Minnesotans, the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge on August 1, 2007, is all too easily remembered.

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With the 10th anniversary of the deadly collapse approaching, the U.S. Navy held a wreath laying ceremony Tuesday on the Mississippi River beneath the newly constructed I-35W bridge.

Navy personnel, local police, fire and sheriff’s departments, and the Army Corps of Engineers were all present for the ceremony.

The event was a part of Navy Week, which is put on by the U.S. Navy and runs from July 17 through July 23 with events being held throughout the state.

Rear Admiral Fritz Roegge said that the week is, “designed to help the Navy have conversations with Minnesotans on who we are, what we do and why it matters. And certainly, ten years ago, it mattered.”

Following the collapse, the state requested federal assistance and 17 members from the Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit were deployed to the scene. Two of the men, Chief Diver Noah Gottesman and Navy Diver 1st Class Brian Bennett, assisted in the rescue and recovery, and both came back to the site to help lay the wreath.

“I was very curious to see what the situation was and was almost horrified when I showed up and saw the bridge in the water,” Bennett said, reflecting on the day of the collapse.

Gottesman remembers focusing on the work that needed to be done at the time.

“The reason why we were there was to bring closure to families. It was amazing, the ability of multiple outside entities to come together and accomplish one goal and do it with little to no ego involved,” Gottesman said. “I was just blown away by this community.”

Thirteen people died and 145 were injured when the Minneapolis bridge fell into the Mississippi River.

Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded the probable cause was a design flaw in the bridge’s gusset plates. The plates were too thin and failed under the weight of the bridge, traffic and construction materials.