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Bush visits bridge collapse site

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  • NEW: President pledges to get bridge rebuilt "as quick as possible"
  • NEW: Transportation secretary promises help for city's transit needs
  • Bush praises people who disregarded danger to help victims
  • Federal investigator notes 50-foot shift of part of bridge
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- President Bush surveyed this week's bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and pledged the government would "eliminate roadblocks" and "cut through paperwork" to get it rebuilt.

"I bring prayers from the American people to those who have suffered loss of life as a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge in the Twin Cities. I bring prayers to those who wonder whether they'll ever see a loved one again," Bush said on his visit.

"I have met with the chief of police and the sheriff and rescue workers -- people who represent men and women working as hard as they possibly can to save life and to find life -- to go under these murky waters to find the facts. And it's going to take awhile."

Shortly after Bush left the site, a diver bobbed in the water and communicated with an attending boat with hand signals.

"I have been impressed not only by their determination but by their compassion," the president said. Video Watch Bush tour the disaster site »

"We want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible. We understand that this is a main artery," Bush said. "People depend on this bridge, on this highway."

Bush was accompanied by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who pledged that she would do what she could to meet the needs of the city.

On Friday, the chief federal investigator said the south end of the bridge "behaved differently" from the rest of the structure during its catastrophic collapse.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said, based on a video of the collapse and where the bridge debris lies, the southern end shifted 50 feet to the east.

"And when we compare that to what we've seen in the rest of the bridge, the rest of the bridge appears to have collapsed in place," Rosenker told reporters.

Rosenker cautioned that investigators' interest in the southern end does not mean they have found the cause of the bridge collapse.

"What we have is a step forward," he said.

"We believe that as the bridge began to fall, as it began to collapse, it shifted," Rosenker said. "I am not saying that the 50-foot shift created the fall. That is not what we believe. What we believe is whatever created the failure, we also saw a 50-foot shift in the southern end of the structure."

Rosenker would not offer any theories on what caused the collapse, saying that would come after the 19 investigators have completed their analysis. See which states have most troubled bridges »

The 1,907-foot bridge came down Wednesday in a cloud of dust and river water during the evening rush hour.

Divers searched the river throughout Friday, locating 12 submerged or partially submerged vehicles, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said. While no bodies were found, two of the vehicles were so badly crushed that divers could not check inside. Five people were confirmed to have died in the collapse. Photo View photos from the disaster »


"I'm hopeful that the death toll will remain low, but I can't be absolutely certain," Stanek said. "I can only pray."

The Hennepin County medical examiner's office Friday identified a fifth victim as Paul Eickstadt, 51, of Mounds View, Minnesota, who was the driver of the tractor-trailer that was ablaze in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. The other four victims were previously identified. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Susan Roesgen contributed to this report.

All About Federal Highway AdministrationGeorge W. BushMinneapolis

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