'Like a miracle': Ex-soccer player survives Italy bridge disaster

GENOA, Italy (Reuters) - Former Italian soccer professional Davide Capello can only describe it as a miracle.

Firefighters and rescue workers stand at the site of a collapsed Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Wearing a blue hospital gown and sitting up in bed, Capello looks physically unscathed but emotionally shattered as he describes how the road beneath his car collapsed on Tuesday, as he was driving over Genoa’s Morandi Bridge.

An 80-metre-long span of the bridge gave way in busy lunchtime traffic, sending the 33-year-old’s car and dozens of other vehicles into a terrifying free-fall which killed at least 39 people and shocked the nation.

“I heard an amazing noise. I saw the road collapsing and I went down with it,” said Capello, who played for the Italy U20 team and mainly in the lower leagues of Italian soccer before turning to coaching.

He took up a new career as a firefighter in late 2013.

Hundreds of other firefighters led the search for survivors on Wednesday, helped by sniffer dogs as well as cranes that cleared away large chunks of broken concrete.

Few were as lucky as Capello, who walked away with barely a scratch, though his car was a mangled wreck.

“I was lucky enough to land, I don’t even know how because if you saw my car. I didn’t pass out ... I felt as though a miracle happened. It was like being in a film. I saw the rescuers who arrived, the fire brigade, everyone,” he said.

He said he could not erase from his mind the image of the road giving way, with four cars in front of him.

“I feel like a miracle,” he said, before invoking the patron saint of Italian firefighters. “Saint Barbara protected me.”

Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Alison Williams