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Cause of Brooklyn Bridge facade collapse investigated

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City investigators on Thursday were trying to determine what caused the partial collapse of the stone facade of the Brooklyn Bridge during a powerful rainstorm, leaving five pedestrians injured.

Among those covered in rubble when the roughly 25-foot section of decorative stonework toppled on Wednesday night was a Brooklyn family sheltering from the storm, including a four-month-old girl who was thrown to the pavement, her family told the New York Daily News.

Stones on the 131-year-old bridge that connects Brooklyn to lower Manhattan over the East River, one of the most recognizable spans in the world, fell at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday on the Brooklyn side.

“Bridge personnel inspected the bridge and found no signs of structural damage,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel.  

“We will immediately conduct a full inspection of all the facades, and will continue to thoroughly inspect our entire bridge inventory,” he said.

The stonework fell away during a heavy rain storm and consisted of “mostly dust and debris,” said New York City Fire Department spokesman Frank Dwyer.

Five people on the street below suffered minor injuries and were taken to a Manhattan hospital as a precaution, he said.

Among those hit by debris was Jerome Dilligard, 52, who told the New York Daily News his wife, grandson and children, including the baby girls, were buried in a pile of rubble.

“My wife had to dig them all out. It’s a miracle they got out with their lives,” he said.

City officials said the piece of the bridge that crumbled was decorative and there is no damage to its structural and support beams.

The facade collapse came as city workers were preparing the bridge for the festive annual July 4th celebration with fireworks set off from barges on the river a short distance to the north.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)