SIX CIVIL engineers are to stand trial following the collapse of a bridge near Porto four years ago, which killed 59 people. The tragedy, which made international headlines, took place on a 19th century bridge in Entre-os-Rios, on March 4, 2001.
Now, a court judge at Castelo de Paiva has decided that four engineers from former highways company Junta Autónoma de Estradas (JAE) and two engineers from a company which carried out checks on the bridge must stand trial for breaking technical rules or, in other words, for professional negligence.
According to the prosecution’s outline charge, published last week in Portugal Diário, the engineers had “freely and knowingly omitted to observe generally recognised technical rules laid down in bridge engineering”. Furthermore, inspections carried out were done with “lack of care, attention and zeal”, according to the document.
Also according to the prosecution, the JAE received complaints, as far back as 1979, about sand being extracted from the riverbank close to the bridge supports, which later proved to have undermined the bridge’s stability.
The judge’s decision was largely based on underwater inspections carried out by diving engineers in December 1986, which were recorded on video and were used as evidence. The judge concluded that, in that year, there was substantial evidence of erosion on the bridge’s fourth pillar, which was already threatening the stability of the bridge.
The bridge fell down in the winter of 2001, following heavy rainfall, which swelled the River Douro and increased the force of its current.