MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A helicopter with a camera mounted in its nose yesterday made slow sweeps, as low as 30 feet, above the wreckage of a freeway-bridge collapse to take pictures of the debris in precise detail.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it would use a helicopter equipped with a high-resolution camera to examine the debris. It landed after about an hour of work.
Shortly afterward, a huge, 100-ton crane from Carl Bolander & Sons inched down the riverside road toward the disaster scene as officials began bringing in heavy equipment to remove debris.
But before the delicate task of removing tons of concrete and steel could begin, Navy divers planned to go back into the murky water to search for the eight people missing since the disaster. A dive team was in town to help, and an FBI team was on the way.
A Mass for one of the five known victims, exercise therapist Patrick Holmes, was held yesterday morning, and memorial services are planned today for marketing director Sherry Engebretsen and truck driver Paul Eickstadt.
It's not surprising that eight motorists have not been located, said John L. Sanders, director of the Ohio-based National Underwater Rescue Recovery Institute.
Some may have been able to escape their vehicles but were swept downstream, he said yesterday. They also could be trapped in tangles of steel reinforcing rod or pinned in their vehicles by seat belts, air bags or debris, said Mr. Sanders, who has helped investigate more than 600 drownings.
Commuters found ways of getting to work in downtown without the major freeway.
The bridge carried up to 140,000 vehicles a day before it fell in the river last Wednesday evening during rush hour.
More than 100 people were injured when vehicles tumbled into the swift current and onto broken concrete. Five persons remained hospitalized in critical condition yesterday morning.
The NTSB said it could take as long as 18 months to complete its investigation into why Minnesota's busiest bridge collapsed. It will use high-tech software to simulate the removal of support structures to see how the bridge reacts.