Public memorial service planned for bridge collapse victims Sunday, Day 4 of river search

By: HENRY C. JACKSON and MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press Writers
By: HENRY C. JACKSON and MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press Writers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Hundreds were expected at an interfaith
service Sunday to remember the victims and pray for the missing in
a devastating bridge collapse, while divers returned to the water
to look for bodies amid debris and sunken cars.
A few hours after dawn, clusters of people climbed a hill in a
park that offered a distant view of the wreckage of the Interstate
35W bridge. A few bouquets of flowers had been laid at a memorial,
and police were transferring some other items and signs that had
been left near the site, including one handwritten sign: "Thank
you, God, you saved + spared many lives."
"It's pretty sobering," said Andy Taylor, of suburban
Richfield. "It's sad to think that people are still risking their
lives to clean everything up."
Divers have not found any victims since Thursday in the
wreckage, frustrating some families waiting for news about the
eight people still missing. Federal investigators said Sunday
they've given state officials the go-ahead to remove some of the
debris from the water, a move likely to speed up the recovery
process.
The effort has been complicated by murky, glass-filled water,
debris and strong currents. It was unclear when the debris removal
would begin.
"This is not a process that will happen overnight," National
Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said. "It's
going to be a very difficult effort to do safely."
On Saturday, families of the missing briefly toured the disaster
site. After the visit, "they had a better depth of understanding
of ... the challenges that the rescuers are facing now that they've
seen it first hand," said Melanie Tschida, a Red Cross
spokeswoman. "That has been one of the ongoing frustrations all
along - the lack of information and just the kind of endless wait
of getting answers," she said.
At least five people were killed and about 100 injured when the
bridge fell Wednesday. Police late Saturday released an official
list of eight people still missing, matching estimates that had
been lowered from the dozens feared dead in the hours immediately
after the tragedy.
The interfaith service, scheduled for Sunday evening at St.
Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, was to include songs and prayers for
the victims and missing. Money raised will be distributed to
victims' families.
Police have cautioned the number of missing could still rise
because it's possible some victims have not been reported missing.
Investigators have names that haven't been connected to the bridge,
and divers and recovery workers have found license plate numbers
that don't belong to an identified missing person or survivor.
Among the missing are Vera Peck and her son, Richard Chit, who
were in the same car. Family members said Richard Chit had Down
syndrome, making him virtually inseparable from his mother.
"One of them wouldn't survive without the other so maybe that's
just the way it's supposed to be," sister Caroline Chit told MSNBC
through tears.
She and her sister said that Richard was 20 and about to turn
21. Authorities listed his age as 21.
The other six are Scott Sathers, 29, who worked at Capella
University, an online school; Christine Sacorafas, 45, a recent
transplant to Minnesota who taught Greek folk dancing class; Greg
Jolstad, 45, a construction worker who was operating a skid loader
on the bridge; Peter Hausmann, 47, a computer security specialist;
and Somali immigrant Sadiya Sahal, 23, a pregnant nursing student,
and her 2-year-old daughter, Hanah.
Of the roughly 100 injured in the collapse, 24 remained
hospitalized Saturday, five in critical condition.
Divers found no bodies inside a crushed car pulled earlier
Saturday from the murky Mississippi River waters. They were unable
to check at least one other car lying beneath another vehicle on
the river bottom.
---
Associated Press writers Vicki Smith, Adam Pemble and Martiga
Lohn contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-05-07 1143EDT


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