JACKSONIVLLE, Fla. -- A grainy cell phone video was the only known documentation of moment a massive ship hit the Mathews Bridge in September, until now.
Action News is the only station to bring viewers a 3-D model of the near-catastrophe. We challenged engineering students at the University of North Florida to recreate the moment of impact, so we can show our viewers exactly what happened.
Ali Abdelmaksoud poured through city and military records, pictures, and video taken by Action News minutes after the crash to create an exclusive rendering.
UNF Engineering Professor, Dr. Adel ElSafty, says the research we asked his students to perform confirms his greatest fear.
“That bridge was on the verge of collapse.”
ElSafty says Jacksonville is extremely lucky, because the ships left post tore through only one beam that just happened to support a minimal amount of weight. It barely missed a major joint, that keeps the bridge standing.
“If that kind of hit was maybe like a foot to the right hitting the load itself that's connecting four or five members, then that would have a very different story.”
ElSafty says the rendering his students created should be a big red flag for city leaders.
“They can learn a lot about the stresses and the vulnerability of our infrastructure to such disaster.”
For now, he calls the Mathews Bridge and this rendering a success story, that engineers worldwide are looking to, to help them plan safer bridges in the future.
“I'm sure structural engineers will use this as a warning,” says Abdelmaksoud, “to put more efforts toward building stronger bridges.”