The eight-lane bridge on Interstate 35W, part of a major artery between Minneapolis and St. Paul, was being repaired at the time, and a witness told MSNBC that he had heard a jackhammer being used on the roadway just before the collapse about 6 p.m. Central time. Witnesses said the bridge, which was built in 1967, collapsed in three sections, sending a plume of smoke 100 feet into the sky.
The collapsed section of the bridge, which was about 1,000 feet long, had been supported by a steel structure.
Divers and rescue boats continued to search the river and the twisted wreckage of the bridge, with darkness setting in and rain beginning to fall. The Minneapolis Star Tribune said some people were seen floundering in the river, calling for help.