Thursday, August 2, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) Federal officials and Minnesota lawmakers will travel to the Twin Cities today to begin investigating the collapse of an interstate bridge into the Mississippi River in Minnesota.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be sending a team of investigators, NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said. The team will be accompanied by the chairman of the NTSB, Mark Rosenker, Lopatkiewicz said.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters was flying to the Twin Cities early this morning along with the state’s two U.S. senators, Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Amy Klobuchar.

“The DOT role is to provide technical support and financial assistance,” said department spokesman Brian Turmail.

Peters spoke with both senators and with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, offering any help she could provide, Turmail said.

While the focus has to be on emergency response, Coleman said, authorities will have to also set up a transportation system.

“Down the road, they will be doing full a forensic analysis to see what caused this,” Coleman said.

“This is just a mile from my home, a bridge I use all the time,” said Klobuchar. “Our hearts go out to all of the families.”

“Right now, we need to rescue every person we can, and make sure they get the best health care they can,” Klobuchar added. “It’s unbelievable. To think that something that mammoth can collapse is just beyond imagination.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minneapolis, said he would also be traveling back to the area on Thursday.

The Interstate 35W bridge just northeast of downtown Minneapolis was in the midst of being repaired when it broke into several huge sections.

The Homeland Security Department had received no indications last night the collapse was related to terrorism, said spokesman Russ Knocke.

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