MINNEAPOLIS – With the search for bodies over at the site of the interstate bridge collapse, authorities will focus on removing tons of wreckage from the Mississippi River.
Divers on Monday evening discovered the body of Gregory Jolstad, a 45-year-old construction worker who was part of the crew resurfacing the Interstate 35W bridge when it fell Aug. 1 during the evening rush hour. The discovery brought the official death toll to 13.
"There aren't a lot of smiles here tonight," said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who was overseeing the search. He said recovery workers were relieved that all the people known to be missing had been found, but mindful of the loss to the families. "We all have very heavy hearts," he said.
Stanek didn't close the door on the possibility of more remains turning up amid the wreckage. He said teams from the sheriff's office would maintain a presence at the bridge site, but the Navy dive teams brought in to locate the remains would leave town within the next day or so.
Jolstad's wife, Lisa Jolstad, had worried earlier Monday that the search for her husband's body would drag on, leaving her without a sense of closure. Stanek said he spoke to her after Greg Jolstad's body was identified, and that she expressed thanks to the search team.
Also Monday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty asked President Bush to declare the collapse a major disaster, which would make the state eligible for more federal money. The governor said the emergency response costs alone would be more than $8 million.
Bush was scheduled to be in Minneapolis on Tuesday and to get a briefing on the bridge.
The search for bodies along the river prevented much other work from beginning. The only removal of bridge debris so far occurred when it was needed to let divers search inaccessible areas, and state transportation officials had vowed that no site work for the planned bridge replacement would start until all the bodies were found.
Terry Zoller, the incident commander at the site for the state Department of Transportation, said crews would immediately begin heavy duty debris removal, clearing the tons of concrete and steel that crumpled into the river.
"We're looking at hopefully having the south end of the bridge removed by the end of the week," Zoller said, adding that reopening the river channel to boats would also be a priority.
The department has set a goal of having a new interstate bridge ready for business by the end of 2008, and an agency official said recently the goal was attainable as long as building began before winter.
Stanek said officials would meet Tuesday to discuss when to reopen the 10th Avenue bridge, a smaller span parallel to the Interstate 35W bridge that has been closed since the collapse.