Twin Cities Tragedy: "The Bottom Dropped Out"

Byron Pitts is National Correspondent for CBS News. He is in Minneapolis, covering the aftermath of the bridge collapse.
(GETTY)
This morning as the sun came up, I met a 51-year old house painter, Berndt Toironen, who fell in his car 30 feet as the bridge simply disappeared beneath him. "The bottom dropped out," he told me. Still a bit disoriented and still in his work clothes from the night before, he told me that if his vehicle had gone five feet further in either direction, he'd be dead. But, his car fell back at an angle and fell on the riverbank, about four feet from the river.

Once he got out, he saw dozens of people get out of their cars, and other people on the banks all jumping right in to assist and pull people to safety. When I asked him how he felt when it was happening – he said he had no idea, because "It happened too fast." But his heart goes out to those families who lost loved ones.

I also had an interview with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. He told me it is so extremely dangerous for the divers, that they will go very very slowly and deliberately in recovering bodies – it could be 3-4 days before they get it all cleared. There is a lot of jagged, twisted debris that could entangle divers, and all the debris increases the strength of the current.

He also said that he knows the death toll will rise because the divers have seen bodies in vehicles. It's sure to take an emotional toll on even the most hardened officers.


  • Byron Pitts

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