Twins postpone Thursday's game after bridge collapses near Metrodome
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins have postponed Thursday afternoon's game against Kansas City following the collapse of the eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge near the Metrodome, and team president Dave St. Peter said their weekend series with Cleveland also could be affected.
The bridge was jammed with rush-hour traffic when it suddenly broke into huge sections and collapsed into the Mississippi River Wednesday, pitching dozens of cars 60 feet into the water. Authorities early Thursday lowered the death toll to four from seven, but warned the final number could change as divers comb the wreckage for as many as 30 people still missing.
"This is not a rescue operation any longer," said Chief Jim Clack of the Minneapolis Fire Department. "It's a recovery operation, which means we move slower and more deliberately."
The Twins also postponed Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the franchise's new stadium, which will be located downtown. Twins officials decided to play Wednesday night's game after conferring with department of public safety officials. It was decided that sending 20,000 to 25,000 people back into traffic could hinder rescue efforts.
After a moment of silence to honor victims of a bridge collapse near the Metrodome, the Royals defeated the Twins 5-3 in 10 innings.
"It is a difficult situation, but it was the right thing to do to play tonight," St. Peter said. "Tomorrow is a different story. Not playing tomorrow is also a matter of traffic control. We are respectful of the situation and for the lives lost."
Twins players were also mindful of the situation.
"I called my wife and called home to make sure they were OK and then it kind of hit home," Twins reliever and Minnesota native Pat Neshek said. "We've all been on that road. It hurts seeing that. I have a lot of friends here -- everyone does. Baseball was the last thing on my mind."
"I just tried to focus on the game and turn the switch on," Twins starter Boof Bonser said. "I had to almost take the minds off of thinking about that."
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire drove over the bridge to the Metrodome every day, including hours before the collapse.
"Obviously, a baseball game is kind of secondary around here," he said. "All of our thoughts and prayers are with the folks over there around the bridge and the people working to try and save everybody's lives. There was a ball game that had to be played. I don't think a lot of us wanted to be out there but it was the right thing to do."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was scheduled to be in town for Thursday's groundbreaking. St. Peter said Major League Baseball is aware of the situation and the postponements. St. Peter also said that, to the best of his knowledge, all Twins front office personnel and player's families are safe.
Minneapolis Fire Chief Jim Clack said 60 people were taken to area hospitals for treatment and that the death toll could rise.
Rescuers called off the search as nightfall made it too dangerous to search the waters, which were filled with chucks of the mangled bridge and at least 50 vehicles in the water.
"We think there are several more vehicles in the river we can't see yet," Clack said, adding that the likelihood of finding survivors was slim.
Authorities referred family members searching for missing loved ones to a nearby hotel, where the Red Cross had set up operations.
Dr. Joseph Clinton, emergency medical chief at Hennepin County Medical Center, said his hospital treated 28 injured people -- including six who were in critical condition.
Clinton said at least one of the victims had drowned.
The Homeland Security Department also said the collapse did not appear to be terrorism-related. The National Transportation Safety Board planned to send a team of investigators to Minneapolis, NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the bridge was inspected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2005 and 2006 and that no structural problems were noted. "There were some minor things that needed attention," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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