35W victims praise work of settlement panel

Bridge deck
A collapsed portion of the I-35W bridge deck.
National Transportation Safety Board

The lawyer for several survivors of the 35W bridge collapse said some of them wept when they learned of the compensation amounts offered to them in last week's settlements with the state. A legislative committee heard a final report today from the panel that distributed the nearly $37 million compensation fund.

Attorney Chris Messerly helped organize a group of lawyers who donated their time to represent survivors of the bridge collapse. Messerly said many victims had wrenching accounts of what they'd endured during and after the disaster. He praised the work of the three panel members - known as special masters - who listened to their stories. Messerly said many survivors were apprehensive about meeting with the panel.

"It was not an easy thing for them," Messerly said. "But I think for many, there was something good about being able to talk. And the special masters listened. They not only listened but they heard."

All 179 people who filed claims accepted the state compensation offers, which ranged from $4,500 to $2.2 million.

Jennifer Holmes, whose husband was killed in the bridge collapse, was awarded nearly $1.4 million dollars. She said the process went smoothly and she praised the work of the three attorneys who served on the panel.

"None of it is easy, I wouldn't say," Holmes said. "Even over a year-and-a-half later it's not easy to meet and talk about it and say how you're feeling. But they gave us the chance to come talk to them and they were very kind and I think they did an awesome job."

The state is paying $36.6 million to people who were on the bridge when it collapsed and to families of the 13 people killed.

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