The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

May 7, 2013

Minn. prepares to dispose of I-35W bridge parts

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota is preparing to give victims, historians and engineers a chance to claim some of the crumpled steel wreckage from the deadly 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge before the rest is sold for scrap.

Aug. 1 marks the six-year anniversary of when the bridge buckled and fell into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour in downtown Minneapolis, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. The Minnesota Department of Transportation had to store the bridge’s steel beams and plates until all the legal claims could be resolved, spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said. The final lawsuit was settled last November.

“There are some folks who were directly involved with the collapse who are interested in having a piece as a memento,” Gutknecht said.

The Minnesota House on Monday unanimously passed a bill to give MnDOT six months to parcel out free pieces to victims’ families, collapse survivors, the Minnesota Historical Society and certain other people or institutions with a connection to the bridge or transportation safety. The bill still awaits Senate action.

State officials expect to give away 121 tons of the 3,380 tons of steel. The remainder would be sold to metal recyclers, generating about $645,000 for the state, which would cover a tiny fraction of the millions paid out to survivors in compensation.

Helen Hausman, whose husband, Peter Hausman, died in the collapse, said it’s only right that victims’ families should get the chance to claim some steel.

“It’s like a weapon that killed their loved ones,” Hausman said, adding that she intends to give her piece to her church, which plans to use it to create a small memorial.

Survivor Garrett Ebling already has a piece of the bridge — a chunk of concrete the size of a fist that was found in his car after it was fished out of the river. He uses it as a paperweight and teaching aid when he speaks to groups about the collapse and his long road to recovery.

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