bridge collapse 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
"I thought, 'This is really happening,' and then I popped my trunk and got out my aid bag," Jay Reeves, paramedic and public safety coordinator for the Minneapolis Red Cross, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Reeves was driving home from work on a street that passes underneath the Interstate 35W bridge when it collapsed 90 meters in front of him. "It was unbelievable," he said.
"When I first got out of the car, I heard a bus full of screaming children," said Reeves of a school bus that was hanging from the bridge at what he described as a 60 degree tilt. "A couple of good Samaritans were already climbing up on the bridge deck to bring them down."
As a paramedic with 20 years experience, Reeves was concerned not just about the injured but also about preventing further casualties from what he saw as a situation that could quickly worsen with little warning.
"The bridge was making a terrible groaning sound, like something in the structure was still in motion," said Reeves.
He called to people at the scene to get out of harm's way, fearing further collapse. "I yelled, 'If you can hear my voice and you can walk: Get out'" as he helped to shepherd away the confused and injured. One looked as if she had been hit by shrapnel, Reeves said.
Amid the chaos, Reeves had to remind others of the danger, watching them selflessly endanger themselves in an effort to help people who could not be reached. "The people under there need help that you can't give them," he told the would-be rescuers.
Reeves described the disoriented children emerging from the school bus to be escorted to safety: "They're scared, they're lost, their entire world's come unhinged."
According to Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek, who is coordinating the recovery mission, at least a dozen people are unaccounted for and four are confirmed dead.
Stanek told the Post the recovery work was moving slowly and deliberately "We are treating this as a crime scene at this point. There's no indication there was any foul play involved, [but] it's a crime scene until we can determine what was the cause of the collapse," he said.