There were minor injuries from the collapse but no fatalities, said authorities, who also said they were flying drones to make sure no one is under any collapsed sections.
Fire Chief Darryl Jones said there had been 10 “minor injuries” and three people were transported from the scene. None of the injuries were life-threatening, he said. Three or four vehicles were on the bridge when it fell, Jones said.
Sam Wasserman, a spokesperson for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, said a few hours after the collapse that officials were evaluating the scene and an urban search-and-rescue team was still combing the area for any other possible victims.
He said most of the 10 people who were evaluated for injuries were first responders checked for exhaustion or because of the cold and snowy weather. Three people were taken to hospitals and none had critical injuries, Wasserman said.
A two-part, elongated Port Authority of Allegheny County bus was on the bridge when it collapsed, with two passengers aboard in addition to the driver, said Adam Brandolph, spokesperson for the transit agency. All three were taken off safely.
About two hours after the collapse, Brandolph said, one of the passengers was on another bus when the passenger began complaining of injuries and was taken to a hospital. The driver and other passenger were not hurt, according to Brandolph.
The bus had started its route in downtown Pittsburgh and was headed to the suburban community of Braddock.
“Judging by the time of day, had this bus been traveling inbound, toward downtown, there likely would have been more people on the bus and obviously could have been a much, much more dire situation,” Brandolph said.
The bus had seven or eight cameras and any footage they captured of the collapse will be part of the investigation.
“We have have not yet been able to review that footage but we certainly hope to very soon,” Brandolph said.
A strong smell of natural gas has been reported in the area, police said, later adding that a gas line had been cut in the area.
“Apart from just this abiding noise, we could begin to smell gas and that was the truly frightening thing, then with that smell we both said, let’s get dressed and get out of here,” said Lyn Krynski, whose home is nearest the bridge.
“It sounded like a weather phenomenon more than anything,” said Douglas Gwilym, who was shovelling about an inch of snow when he heard the noise. “It was all I had to compare it to — it was this odd, whooshing sound.”
At the site of the collapse, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called it “just an awful, surreal scene.”
“I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments,” Fetterman said.
The scene was reminiscent of the aftermath of an earthquake. There was a large crack on the end where the bus was, he said. There was also a car upside down in front of the bus.
The Red Cross has been contacted to assist victims, and residents are asked to avoid the area.
The Allegheny County Police Department was notified about a partial bridge collapse sometime after 6am on Friday (10pm AEDT), according to Amie Downs, a spokesperson for the county.
Four vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, Downs said, and only minor injuries had been reported, among them the driver of an articulated bus and two passengers.
Jeremy Habowski told CNN he feels lucky to be alive after surviving the collapse. He and other drivers were unable to stop in time after the bridge gave way, he said.
“The scariest part was definitely going over the edge because there was a gap and my car left the ground,” he told CNN. His car and others are now sitting on top of what remains of the bridge.
Once things settled, Habowski checked on another driver, he said. Then he climbed up the hill to try and stop other drivers from driving into the debris.
“It was a lot to take in,” he told CNN.
Greg Barnhisel lives about a quarter-mile from where the bridge collapse, so he and his wife went to see it on foot, he told CNN.
“We didn’t hear it collapse,” he said. “When we got to the site of the collapse, the roaring sound and the smell of the broken gas line were overwhelming.”
“It’s very frightening,” she said. “My goodness, all these ambulances and fire trucks and what not. Just the thought of the bridge collapsing is a very scary prospect. I cross that bridge all the time.”
“Thankfully, schools were on a two-hour delay for weather,” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman told CNN’s New Day.
“So the traffic was less than it would have been normally on a normal day, but it’s surreal to see this bridge.”
Asked about the collapse coming the same day of the President’s visit, Fetterman, a Democrat, said, “This is a horrible way to underscore just how critical our infrastructure needs are in this country.”
Biden is aware of the collapse, the White House said in a statement, and plans to proceed with his trip.
“The President is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time,” the statement reads.
The steel bridge, which was built in 1970, carries about 14,500 vehicles a day, according to a 2005 estimate.
Wasserman said the most recent inspection occurred in September but the report was not immediately available.
But a September 2019 inspection of the city-owned bridge revealed the deck and superstructure to be in poor condition, according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory.
A spreadsheet on the state Department of Transportation website listed the bridge’s overall condition as poor, which, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, means “deterioration of primary structural elements has advanced.”