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Status of Fund

Page history last edited by Steve Escher 15 years, 2 months ago




 House of Representatives


Creative Commons License: Public Domain







Current Status of Proposed Fund  


A heated debate has been going on among Minnesota’s legislators in regards to how much compensation should be given to the survivors and victims families of the 35W bridge collapse. The Senate passed a proposal on March 13, 2008 that made $26.5 million available, but has a limit of $400,000 on individual claims. The House proposed a plan that would not cap individual claims and sets aside nearly $40 million for the victims. (4)


House-Senate negotiators met on March 26, 2008 to start sorting out their differences over how to compensate victims of the Minneapolis freeway bridge collapse and nothing was resolved. The House and Senate bills are separated by about $15 million and a significant philosophical issue -- whether payments to individual victims should be subject to a $400,000 liability limit in Minnesota law. The Senate caps would affect about 25 victims and their families -- 13 who died and the 12 most severely injured when the Interstate 35W bridge fell on Aug. 1. (3)


So far the State without Legislative approval has awarded $10,000 in lost wages to victims. Survivors have testified that their medical bills will exceed the cap of $400,000. Some even estimate that their expenses will exceed $1 million.  For example, Jennifer Holmes, whose husband was killed, and Brad Coulter, who was injured along with his wife and daughters, both said they face costs and losses totaling more than $1 million.  "It's true that no amount of money will ever replace what my children and I have lost," said Holmes, who brought the last family photograph showing her husband, Patrick. "You can't replace that, but if I'm helped appropriately I'll have the peace of mind knowing that I can take care of my family. "They pressed lawmakers to find a way to offer them and similar victims more than $400,000. (1)


So far the victims of the August 1 collapse have been pressing for no individual limits since there are some that have suffered severe injuries and for those who have lost loved ones. There is a growing frustration among the survivors. Many have lost wages due to not being able to work from the collapse and in turn are having trouble paying their bills. They feel there is a lot of red tape to go through and lack of response. (1)


Governor Pawlenty does support a $400,000 limit for individual compensation. He also has said that some extra compensation could be set aside for a small number of "extraordinary cases" whose needs wouldn’t be met under the proposed cap. (1)



Survivor’s stories:


While there were many individuals who suffered injuries, here are a few stories from those who could benefit from assistance from the fund.



Matt Lundquist, 30, Burnsville


Lundquist is president of a construction company and was on his way home from seeing a client. The pavement in front of him went up a little bit, everything in front of that disappeared, part of the roadway behind him collapsed, and then Matt Lundquist's head hit the ceiling of his tan Ford Expedition. "I waited for my section to collapse - just hoping nothing would fall on top of me," Lundquist, 30, of Burnsville, said later. When everything stopped and was quiet, he and others on his section of the bridge hiked down the incline to safety. In the days afterward, he returned to working in his contracting company, Top Notch Builders. But his back was aching and he had trouble concentrating. "I was angry. I was wondering 'How can something like this happen?' You trust your life every day, you put it in the hands of someone else ... you think the situation is under control and they know what they're doing," he said. "It definitely turned my life upside down." (2)



Mercedes Gorden, 31, Minneapolis


Gorden would cringe as she crossed the 35W bridge twice a day this summer, commuting to work in Richfield. All that jackhammering by construction crews made her nervous.

She had almost made it across, listening to her favorite jazz station, when her fears came true on Aug. 1. Gorden could see the University Ave. exit on the north end when the highway began to crack in front of her. Her Ford Escort plunged headlong into a V-shaped pit at the base of the bridge.

"I started saying No No No," she said. "I was thinking to myself, I am not going to die." The car slammed to the ground, landing upright but pinned against a stone wall. Her airbag and seatbelt had done their jobs, and she was still conscious. But she couldn't move her legs, which were trapped in the mangled front of the car. She had massive fractures in her legs, and a broken vertebrae. Five weeks and six operations later, she left the hospital in a wheelchair. She recently started to walk again with the help of a walker. (2)



The Coulter family: Brad, 43; Paula, 43; Brianna, 18; Brandi, 17, Savage


The Coulters were heading to a family celebration in Roseville in honor of their eldest daughter, Brianna, a soccer star who was about to leave for college. Brad Coulter, who was driving the family's 2002 Honda Odyssey, could see the northbound end of the bridge when the pavement started to ripple. He pressed on the gas, hoping to make it to safety. But the road collapsed, sending the van airborne. It flipped over and crashed upside-down at the base of the bridge. Brad and the girls were able to free themselves, in spite of back injuries, and climb out the van's shattered windows. Paula, who had hit her head, was barely conscious. All four were hospitalized, but Paula was the most critically wounded with head and back injuries. Her husband and daughters went home in less than a week wearing back braces. Paula had emergency surgery and was hospitalized for more than two months - longer than any other bridge victim. She continues her recovery at Courage Center in Golden Valley. (2)



Tina Hickman


Hickman was eight months pregnant and firefighters had to pull her out of the windshield of her car. She gave birth to her son hours later after having an emergency cesarean section. She was in a drug-induced coma for several weeks. She and the baby are both doing well now. (2)



Linda Paul, 56, Minneapolis


Paul was on the north end of the bridge heading south near an expansion joint when she realized the bridge was coming down. She looked out of the window of her company van and watched the expansion joint split apart. "And I thought, that's it." She blacked out briefly and came to on the way down. When her van landed, tilted at an angle, she opened her eyes and could not see a thing. "There was a huge cloud of dust and chunks of concrete flew into the window. I landed, and it was absolutely quiet." She remembers the dust quickly cleared and she wondered if she was going to continue falling. A big chunk of concrete was sitting on her lap. Paul took chunks and threw them out the window. "I knew I was hurt in some way but had no idea what. I stuck my arm out of the window and just started yelling and waving my arm. I just remember looking up and the sky was brilliant blue. It was a striking visual image in my mind. And I started hearing voices coming from everywhere." Bernie Toivonen helped her out of her van. Paul had five fractured vertebrae, cracked ribs and her left cheekbone was rebuilt. (2)



Jessie Shelton, 18, Minneapolis


That evening, Shelton was scheduled to play a featured role in the summer musical, "Company," at the Children's Theatre. She thought she had plenty of time to get there, even though she left her job in southeast Minneapolis late that day. Jessie, a 2007 graduate of St. Louis Park High School, remembers heading across the bridge in her Honda Civic, but nothing of the accident.

She passed out shortly after the highway began to shake, and woke up at the hospital after rescue crews pulled her from the wreckage. The daughter of two professional musicians, Jessie had been preparing for a career in musical theater. She starred as Pippi Longstocking at the Children's Theatre in 2006 and was to begin her freshman year this fall in an elite drama program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She was hospitalized for eight days at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Because of her injuries - four damaged vertebrae - she's postponed college for a year.

But her injuries are healing and she fully expects to perform again. (2)







1. St. Paul AP. Pawlenty: Some I-35W Victim Cases Could Get Extra. 17 March 2008.WCCO.com.


2. Pam Louwagie, Jane Friedmann, James Shiffer, Rhonda Prast. 13 Seconds in August. 2007. Star Tribune.


3. Kaszuba, Mike. Funds to Aid 35W Bridge Survivors Go Unclaimed. 24 March 2008. Star Tribune. 


4. St. Paul AP. Talks Begin Over Compensation For Bridge Victims. 26 March 2008. WCCO.com.



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