3 INVESTIGATES: Channel 3 retraces caller's attempt to reach TDOT three days before interstate bridge collapse
“Concrete is falling out from underneath the overpass,” the woman reported.
The woman called the non-emergency line at the East Ridge Police Department.
“This is at the split...24 split 75 East Ridge side going toward downtown,” the caller told the dispatcher.
The caller described seeing chunks of concrete, two-feet long, fall from the bridge. She tells Channel 3, it hit the center line of the interstate and broke into pieces in front of her car.
“There are big huge, long chunks of concrete that are falling out,” she relays. “I don't want it to hit somebody's car.”
“Yes, that could be an issue,” the dispatcher responds.
Before that conversation took place, records show the woman first tried to call TDOT directly.
“TDOT is closed,” she told the police dispatcher.
The police dispatcher immediately relayed her message to TDOT’s traffic management center.
“There are apparently pieces of concrete falling from the underside of the overpass,” the police dispatcher told a TDOT dispatcher.
TDOT says their help supervisor went to check it out, but could not find anything.
When asked why the caller could not reach anyone at TDOT, a spokesperson says the caller hung up before she could be connected.
“We have a record of her calling at 4:04 p.m. in the afternoon,” said Jennifer Flynn, spokesperson for TDOT. “She stayed on the line for a little over a minute and hung up.”
“We have over 300 people that work on this campus so if you call the main line you have to go through the menu,” said Flynn.
Channel 3 retraced the caller’s steps, calling TDOT’s main number to see how it works:
- We were greeted with the same automated phone service the 911 caller described.
- The auto attendant listed several numbers to call for specific needs, before listing a menu of options.
- We followed the prompt and pressed zero to speak to someone directly.
- We were routed back to the main menu.
- This time, we selected the bridge inspections and repairs department.
- The phone rang seven times before we were sent to voicemail and ultimately disconnected.
Flynn says drivers should call 911 with any emergency or report of damaged infrastructure they encounter on the interstate system. She says the police department will then contact TDOT.