A week after the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed in Frick Park, cleanup is underway and plans to rebuild are underway.

For the Pittsburgh police officers who first arrived at the bridge on January 28, the sights, sounds and overwhelming scale of the scene remain crystal clear.

“I don’t think any of us realized that it was actually, like, the bridge collapsed,” Officer Becca Franks said.

“Or,” said Officer Jeff LaBella, “the magnitude of what we were going to find whenever we got there.”

What they found, Franks said, “was like a movie.”

The 447-foot span, part of Forbes Avenue, carries more than 14,000 cars a day, according to state records. It is a main thoroughfare between the Oakland and Regent Square neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.

The sun had not yet risen when Franks, LaBella and officers Tyler Nestler, Ryan Henry and Matthew Salerno arrived on deck. Power to the streetlights was out, they said, and the scene was pitch black.

“I didn’t realize it had collapsed until we got back to the top after everyone came out from below,” Franks said. “It didn’t occur to me that the bridge was gone until we got back to the top.”

The collapse ruptured a gas line, and the sound, Nestler said, was like “standing next to a jet engine”.

“Communication was almost impossible for all of us,” he said. “We basically had to shout at the top of our lungs in hopes of communicating. We had no radio traffic there so everyone on the main road knew what was going on below.

Franks said the group had no idea what they might find at the bottom of the ravine. When they got there, they feared the worst.

“I thought there would definitely be casualties,” LaBella said. “I couldn’t even believe there weren’t any injuries when we got there. I expected the worst. »

The way the bridge fell, Franks said, likely saved lives.

“The bridge really broke in the most perfect way,” she said. “If it had broken any other way, I don’t think it would have been the same result.”

Nestler said the span split in a way to prevent the Port Authority’s articulated bus from sliding backwards into other vehicles.

“There are times when this traffic is backed up from Braddock Avenue and there are actually people sitting on this bridge,” LaBella said.

“And it’s a four-lane bridge,” Nestler said. “And especially with Shady Side (Academy Junior School) being very close – as Franks said, there could have been school buses, and it could have been 10 times worse than it ended up being. It was still terrible, but not as bad as it could have been.

Megan Guza is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .