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Pedestrian Walkways Unfit for Walking

When we think of bridge collapses, the wreckage resulting from large automobile-carrying bridge failures likely comes to mind, such as the horrific scene following the I-35 Mississippi River Bridge collapse in 2007. However, bridge engineering design and construction flaws have also led to catastrophic accidents on elevated pedestrian walkways.

One of the most famous pedestrian walkway collapses occurred in 1981 at a newly constructed Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. With 114 people killed and 216 injured, at the time, it was the deadliest structural collapse in United States history. The accident was caused by a small but inherently flawed design change, which led to construction difficulties. After the catastrophe, it was determined that the new design was barely able to support the weight of the structure itself, much less the additional weight of people traversing and lingering on the bridge.

As a result the collapse and ultimate tragedy, the engineers who approved the final drawings were convicted of gross negligence, misconduct, and unprofessional conduct in the practice of engineering by the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers, and Land Surveyors. In addition, the individual engineers lost their professional licenses and membership to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the original design firm that hired them lost its license to practice as an engineering firm. In subsequent civil lawsuits, approximately $140 million was awarded to compensate victims and their families.

In 2000, a pedestrian walkway collapse occurred at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, injuring more than 100 people when the walkway split in two pieces. After the accident, state engineers determined that the track’s inspectors must have overlooked serious indications of the bridge’s instability. An issue raised by this collapse is the fact that privately owned pedestrian walkways do not fall under the jurisdiction of the state or federal government, and therefore, may not be inspected with proper thoroughness or frequency.

Engineering Design & Construction Expert Witness

Pierre Handl, P.E. evaluates disasters in California and across the United States, determining whether engineering design defects and/or faulty construction contributed to a catastrophe. If you are involved in such a case and need a structural expert to advise you or appear as an expert witness, contact Engineering Expert Witnesses today for a free initial consultation.

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