Trucker was first to report Green Bay bridge sagA trucker was crossing the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay in the early hours last Wednesday when he felt something strange underneath his rig — so strange that he reached for his cellphone and dialed 911.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A trucker was crossing the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay in the early hours last Wednesday when he felt something strange underneath his rig — so strange that he reached for his cellphone and dialed 911.
When he reported around 3:45 a.m. that the pavement on the bridge seemed to be sagging, the dispatcher either could not understand him or could not believe it, Press-Gazette Media reported Sunday.
"Sagging?" she asked.
The trucker repeated himself and urged the dispatcher to take action.
"I would suggest," he said, "that someone go out there and at least take a look at it."
After being dispatched to investigate, a Green Bay police officer reported about 10 minutes later that nothing appeared unusual. It would be almost another hour before officers realized the 120-foot-tall bridge had, in fact, sagged and that the highway had to be shut down.
Built in 1980, the bridge carries about 40,000 cars a day over the Fox River on Interstate 43. It's one of the city's most vital thoroughfares. Officials have indicated that it could be months or even a year before the bridge reopens. They're still trying to determine why a support pier sank, causing the 2-foot dip in the pavement.
Lt. Jeff Brester said it appears the first officer to arrive at the bridge either was mistaken in the initial assessment or the problem with the bridge worsened later. He said other motorists surely would have taken notice of a situation as serious as sagging pavement.
"If it was as bad as people are saying at that time, I would think we would've gotten more calls," he said.
Those calls did come.
Around 4:45 a.m., another truck driver, Richard Maufort, called 911 to report that conditions on the bridge were "not quite right."
Maufort, who delivers automobile parts to car dealers, said something was amiss when he crossed over the bridge heading west about 4 a.m. On his return trip east, Maufort decided to alert authorities.
Jason Lahm, a state bridge maintenance engineer, was getting ready for work when his phone rang about 5 a.m. The state's traffic operations center in Milwaukee advised him of the reports that the bridge was sagging. Although skeptical, he rushed to the scene, arriving there about 30 minutes later.
Police had already closed the bridge, and Lahm could see for himself the reports were true. His first thoughts were of disbelief: "This can't happen."
But he called his supervisor and reported that the bridge would likely have to remain closed for a long time.
"I could determine that we had a significant issue as soon as I got to the site," Lahm said. "It was very obvious as soon as I saw it."
Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com