University students respond to Interstate 35W bridge collapse

One student, a certified Wilderness First Responder, aided rescue crews.

Ahnalese Rushmann

Eric Neumann rode over the bridge minutes before the accident, on his way home from his Target Corporation internship. His corner Florence Court apartment overlooks 10th Avenue and what was the Interstate 35W bridge. He had plans to meet up with family around 6:30 p.m., he said.

Neumann heard the collapse and initially thought the noise came from the construction work on the bridge, he said.

“We felt and heard a huge crash,” he said. “The whole apartment was shaking for a few moments, the electricity went out. It was crazy. Within moments, the sky was filled with dust.”

Neumann looked out his kitchen window and saw what happened.

“I saw 10th Avenue, didn’t see I-35W,” he said. “I looked up and saw a piece of I-35W sticking straight up in the air,” he said.

Neumann called his family, while they were driving from Coon Rapids, and warned them not to take the I-35W bridge.

Neumann, who is a trained Wilderness First Responder, ran to the scene, still in his work suit. Wilderness First Response training is similar to emergency medical technician training, Neumann said.

After making his way through the gathering crowds, Neumann came across two injured construction workers clearly in need of medical attention.

“Their faces were really bloody,” Neumann said. “They had actually gone down with the bridge. The one guy had tried to catch his buddy as he was falling but both ended up falling. Somehow they got split up but they managed to get out of the rubble with each other OK.”

Neumann said their injuries were stable, but they had suffered distorted joints, potential broken bones and a facial injury caused by a metal toolbox hitting one worker in the face as they flew in the air.

Neumann tended to the construction workers for nearly two hours until an ambulance came, he said.

Around 8 p.m., Neumann was able to meet up with his mother on the crowded 10th Avenue bridge. The rest of his family members were waiting at his apartment.

Ensuring the construction workers made it to an ambulance and reuniting with his family and friends gave Neumann a little peace of mind, he said.

Fellow University student, Eric Noll, also a Wilderness First Responder, rushed to the south side of the bridge, Neumann said.

“As I was there, it was amazing to see the amount of volunteers and people helping out, doing whatever they could,” Neumann said.

-Mitch Anderson contributed to this report.