The official reopening of a popular riverside walk in Cuernavaca, Morelos, took a scary turn Tuesday when a short suspension bridge collapsed while two dozen people were crossing it — including the mayor and his wife.
Fortunately, the hanging bridge did not span a huge ravine, and the fall to the stream and rocks below was approximately two meters. But at least 14 people were injured, according to sources.
The situation unfolded in a tourist area in Parque Barranca de Amanalco, one of the most visited parks in Cuernavaca, the state capital. The city is a popular weekend getaway destination about 90 minutes south of Mexico City by car.
Mayor José Luis Urióstegui Salgado suffered minor injuries and was “out of danger,” according to a spokesperson, but his wife, Luz María Zagal Guzmán, was taken to a local hospital, as were four members of the municipal council, a government employee and a reporter for a local newspaper who was on one of her first assignments. Treated at the scene without serious injuries were at least six others, including a councilor, the secretary of the council and four government employees.
The suspension bridge connects two paved pathways on the Paseo Ribereño, a tourist walk in the park that had been closed for about four years. Initial reports said the bridge, made of wooden boards and metal chains, had been renovated as part of a larger rehabilitation project in the park, which is located in the Amanalco canyon.
However, the state government later announced that the suspension bridge had not been included in the project to improve the riverside walk. A non-suspension footbridge on the walk, underneath the Porfirio Díaz vehicular bridge, was replaced due to damage from the 2017 Puebla earthquake and deterioration from natural causes.
The park was being reopened as part of a larger program that was reactivating popular tourist sites throughout Cuernavaca, such as the El Castillito photographic museum and Porfirio Díaz Park. The normally user-friendly Paseo Ribereño allows people to walk through nature in the midst of extensive vegetation and experience unique climate conditions.
Enrique Clemente, the coordinator of Civil Protection of Morelos, said, “The walk is complicated because there are many stairs [and] a very steep slope,” which made it difficult to get some of the injured people out of the park. He said that two people suffered serious injuries, and that most of those who fell landed on sand and stones.
Morelos Governor Cuauhtémoc Blanco, 49, a former soccer star considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest players of all time, issued a statement immediately after the accident, saying, “I am very sorry for the accident that the mayor of Cuernavaca José Luis Uriostegui, his wife, work team and media correspondents suffered a few moments ago during the inauguration of Paseo Ribereño. I sincerely hope that there are no serious injuries.”
A report from Uno TV said that “a young man was seen jumping on the suspension bridge” at the outset of the incident, which video confirms.
Mayor Urióstegui said as much in a TV interview after the incident, noting that the bridge collapsed due to “recklessness of whoever started to jump” while adding that all the people on the bridge at the same time made for more weight than the structure was built to support.
The newspaper Milenio identified the person who jumped as a municipal assistant in Amatitlán, a neighborhood in Cuernavaca.
Milenio also spoke with civil engineers who went to the scene to evaluate the collapse of the bridge. “They assured that regardless of the state of the bridge, or whether or not it was maintained, the structure did not have the capacity to support so many people on it at the same time. They ruled out that just the jumping of a person on the bridge was enough to make it collapse; it was, rather, the combined weight of more than 20 people,” Milenio quoted them as saying.
Valeria Díaz Beltrán, a reporter who had been on staff at the newspaper El Sol de Cuernavaca for only a week, reported from her hospital what she experienced during the collapse: “I was approximately half a meter from the mayor … and I just don’t know who, I don’t know the name of the person who said, when we were already in the middle of the bridge, ‘You have to go one by one.’ And that was the last thing I heard. After that, I only remember lying on the ground. I got up immediately because, out of shock and nerves and fright, there were people in front of me who were very hurt.”