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Collapsed Florida bridge contractor files for bankruptcy

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The contractor responsible for building the collapsed Florida International University (FIU) bridge has filed for bankruptcy, almost one year after the fatal collapse.

Munilla Construction management (MCM) released a statement to say that after 35 years of trading it had filed for bankruptcy under chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code. A chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a reorganisation plan to keep its business alive and repay creditors.

MCM was building the FIU bridge, a 53m long, 862t concrete trussed structure, when it collapsed onto a live eight lane road below on 15 March last year.  Five people died in vehicles one bridge worker was also killed.

Following the collapse, MCM said in a statement that its liquidity had become constrained, it had been unable to pursue new projects and as a consequence had lost access to its credit facilities.

An investigative update by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in November last year claimed that errors had been made in the design of the northernmost nodal region of the span where two truss members were connected to the bridge deck.

Images of cracks that were found in the bridge two days before it was lifted into place were also released as part of the investigation.

The company stressed that the filing was not an attempt to avoid responsibility for the bridge collapse, saying it intended to resolve the claims as part of the restructuring operation.

“We are focused on implementing a reorganisation of the business that will enable us to complete our pending projects and position the company to pursue future opportunities,” said MCM president Jorge Munilla. “The plan will also address the company’s liabilities, especially those related to the failure of the University City Prosperity Project.”

He added that the reorganisation would have minimal impact on the business operations.

“As always, our management team and employees remain focused on doing great work for our valued customers. The reorganisation will have minimal impact on operations,” said Munilla.

The family owned business was fined by the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration last year for serious safety violations and failing to protect its workers on the FIU bridge. In total five companies have been fined a total of $86,658 (£65,765) for seven violations on the project.

Fines were handed out to designer Figg Bridge Engineers, Munilla Construction Management, Bolton Perez & Associates, Structural Technologies and concrete contractor the Structural Group. 

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