3 INVESTIGATES: TDOT engineers say 911 caller saw grout fall from bridge prior to collapse, not concrete
Records show an East Ridge woman reported seeing a "big, huge, chunk of concrete" fall from the I-75 South Bridge on March 29, just three days before a concrete barrier collapsed, seriously injuring one driver.
TDOT officials say a supervisor checked the area immediately after the 911 call came in and found no signs of falling concrete. TDOT engineers believe the woman saw grout fall from the bridge, not concrete.
“Concrete is falling out from underneath the overpass,” the caller told an East Ridge police dispatcher.
“TDOT is closed. This is at the split ... 24 split 75 east ridge side going toward downtown," she continued.
Radio traffic confirms an East Ridge police dispatcher immediately relayed the caller's message to TDOT’s Traffic Management Center (TMC).
TDOT Spokesperson Jennifer Flynn had not heard the 911 call when she granted Channel 3 an on-camera interview, but Flynn says TDOT looked into the concern and found no signs of falling concrete.
“Bridge engineers believe it was some grout that is in between concrete slabs that had just fallen and when it hit the road it just broke apart,” Flynn explained.
David Carnes, the owner of Solomon Poured Walls, disagrees.
The caller says what fell shattered when it hit the ground in front of her car. She says it was two-feet long.
“Two feet long? No, that's concrete. Grout, you're not going to see a big piece like that fall off a bridge," Carnes said.
"If it was grout, it would be a small piece of grout or something that was fixed very small. It’s just really for filling in. It wouldn’t have much to do with the (bridge) structure.
Carnes has been a certified concrete contractor for 45 years. He says grout is typically used to make small repairs and is different from concrete.
“Concrete is a large aggregate. It’s a larger stone. Then you have a small aggregate (grout), which is like pea gravel,” Carnes said. "They’re similar in appearance until you cut them open or looked at it.”
TDOT says their HELP supervisor did not see any signs of debris following the 911 call, allowing the bridge to stay open and not be inspected.
“We looked around and tried to find it and were unable to,” Flynn said.
Carnes says if grout or concrete fell from the bridge, it would still be there; even if it shattered.
“No that's not going to happen," said Carnes, when asked if falling grout could possibly leave no evidence.
The 911 caller does not want to be named, but we called her back after TDOT told us there was nothing left on the roadway. She tells us, she returned to the interchange the day after calling 911 to show her husband the debris, and it was still in the roadway.