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Bridge calls subject of investigation

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By Dave Taylor

An investigation is underway following a series of calls received by the 911 emergency system in Madison that led to the closure of the Milton-Madison Bridge Friday night.

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Jefferson County, Ind., Sheriff John Wallace told The Trimble Banner that he has asked the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for their assistance in the investigation.

Wallace said calls reporting safety concerns were received at “9:02 p.m., 9:15 and two more at 9:32 p.m.” The bridge was closed late Friday by law enforcement on both sides of the river.

Inspections Friday night and Saturday revealed no evidence of what the callers had reported, leading to speculation on the part of many local social media correspondents that the calls had been a malicious prank.

“We are checking the sources of those calls and validity of those reports,” Wallace said. He said the investigation should determine whether the calls came from one phone source or from different phones and individuals.

“The state police were on the scene at the time the calls came in,” Trimble County Sheriff Tim Coons said. “Apparently there were numerous calls to law enforcement on both the Indiana side and the Kentucky side of the river.”

Officers with the Kentucky State Police, Indiana State Police and the Trimble County Sheriff’s Department have been maintaining a continual presence on both sides of the bridge to enforce the 3-ton weight limit that was imposed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on March 14 after the most recent inspection of the bridge by KYTC engineers revealed deterioration to a degree that necessitated the latest weight restriction on the 82-year-old bridge.

“Apparently, there were all kinds of reports coming in that people had heard explosions, reports of people being on the bridge, people said the bridge was swaying and that chunks of metal were falling,” Coons said.

Trooper Brad Arterburn, Public Information Officer for Kentucky State Police Post 5 in Campbellsbur,g said his understanding was that callers were reporting that “the bridge felt like it was swaying or moving more than usual.”

“My phone was ringing off the hook” after the bridge was closed and traffic was rerouted to the bridge over the Markland Locks and Dam, Coons said. “We would no sooner finish one call than another was ringing in. We didn’t receive any calls reporting anything wrong with the bridge. Our calls were all from people wondering what was going on and why was the bridge closed.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet sent a bridge engineer to review the structure Friday night. An initial review did not show anything out of the ordinary, according to Andrea Clifford, Public Information Officer for the Kentucky Department of Highways District 5 Office in Louisville. A team of six KYTC bridge inspectors arrived at the site early Saturday and completed their inspection early Saturday afternoon.

“The team of engineers did not find any evidence to substantiate the concerns expressed in the 911 calls and recommended re-opening the bridge at the posted 3-ton weight limit,” Clifford said in a news release.

The engineers sent by the KYTC said following their complete inspection that “nothing looked any different than it had before,” according to Arterburn.

Traffic control devices were removed and the roadway reopened to traffic by 2 p.m. Saturday.