Bridge Collapse Prompts Cell-Phone Overload

When the I-35 West bridge collapsed Wednesday night at the height of rush hour in Minneapolis, so many people grabbed their cell phones to talk about it that the system was overwhelmed.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This morning, we've been bringing you the latest information from Minneapolis, where the I-35W Bridge collapsed last night.

Mr. KENT BARNARD (Principal Engineer; Communications Specialist, Minnesota Department of Transportation): I've been an emergency medical technician for 22 years, and I've been a firefighter for 12 years. And I've seen some pretty horrendous stuff in my day, and I never ever, ever thought I would see something like this.

MONTAGNE: Kent Barnard is with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Mr. BARNARD: When you get up close to the bridge and you see that much twisted steel and concrete and the cars down on top of it and some of the cars in the river, you just can't fathom it unless you - when you're right there, right next to it. You know, you see things on TV or you hear about things or you read about things, but unless you're actually are up close to them, it's hard to put it into perspective.

MONTAGNE: The bridge collapsed at the height of rush hour.

Wayne Armstrong is an attendant at the BP gas station just off the bridge. He says he was helping a customer last evening.

Mr. WAYNE ARMSTRONG (Attendant, BP Gas Station): We heard, like, an explosion. And I looked up and I seen a lot of smoke come towards me, come towards the gas station. And then my friend ran out after the smoke clear, and I've seen the car go down, and then I seen the highway buckle up. I told him, like, man, something bad happened.

MONTAGNE: So many people grabbed their cell phones to talk about it, but the system was overwhelmed. Eyewitness Courtney Jensen was among those whose call got through.

Ms. COURTNEY JENSEN (Witness to Bridge Collapse): Two seconds after it happened, I called my mom and I said, it's going to come across and that 35W collapsed in front of my building. We're okay.

MONTAGNE: Courtney Jensen was one of the lucky ones. The search continues this morning for those still missing.

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