911 Caller on Tilting Bridge: "Crazy Emergency"

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014  |  Updated 1:15 AM EDT
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A 911 caller reported the tilting of the I-495 bridge in Wilmington, D.E. back in April.

NBC10 - Tim Furlong

A 911 caller reported the tilting of the I-495 bridge in Wilmington, D.E. back in April.

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911 Call Made About Tilting I-495 Bridge Weeks Ago

NBC10 has obtained a copy of the 911 tape that tip off emergency crews about the problems on the Interstate 495 bridge weeks before the roadway was closed.
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A 911 recording shows a Delaware man tried to warn state transportation officials and law enforcement about a tilting interstate bridge nearly two months before the river crossing was shut down.

In the April 15 call obtained by NBC10.com on Monday, Charles Allen Jr. describes how the heavily-traveled 4,800-foot-long bridge crossing the Christina River in Wilmington had begun to separate and lean.

"It's kind of a crazy emergency," he said. "The two roadbeds are lifting up opposing each other, and it doesn't look right. Something's wrong."

Allen, who regularly travels across the bridge on his commute, told the operator that he had tried to contact the Delaware Department of Transportation using several numbers, but could not get in touch with anyone.

"I don't want to be rude and use this number for something that's not [an emergency], but it appears to be an emergency today," he said.

The operator told Allen that she would pass along the information to police. However, it's unclear what happened next with the man's warning.

The tilting wasn't addressed by transportation officials until June 2 -- more than six weeks later. That Monday, state transportation officials issued an emergency shut down of the bridge after a contractor, working on another project, noticed the bridge was leaning 2 feet to the side.

DelDOT officials eventually chose to close the bridge indefinitely. They said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution and to prevent a possible failure and collapse. Engineers are still working to determine what is causing the bridge's supports to tilt.

Allen's 911 call didn't come to light until after the man came forward following the closure.

The contractor's warning was also deferred for two days before action was taken. The state's transportation secretary expressed regret over the slow action regarding the contractor's notification, but said the bridge was not in imminent danger of collapse.

A DelDOT spokesperson said the agency's priority is getting the bridge fixed, but that they would release a statement on the 911 call later on Monday.

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