Fatal crash on Chain of Rocks Bridge closes I-270

2010-12-08T15:00:00Z 2010-12-10T15:31:27Z Fatal crash on Chain of Rocks Bridge closes I-270BY KIM BELL • kbell@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8115 stltoday.com

UPDATED 4:43 p.m. Police now say 911 dispatcher, not callers, made error about location of disabled vehicle.

ST. LOUIS • A man trying to push a disabled vehicle on the Chain of Rocks Bridge was hit by a tractor-trailer early Wednesday and killed in a fiery crash.

Interstate 270 on the Chain of Rocks Bridge was closed in both directions as police investigated the 5 a.m. crash.

When the truck driver swerved to try to avoid the man, the truck hit the median and caught fire.

Police said they received two calls at 4:47 a.m. reporting a stalled vehicle on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, the I-270 crossing of the Mississippi River, near Riverview Drive.

A dispatcher mistakenly sent two police cars to Interstate 70 and Riverview instead, police said. By 4:52 a.m., after receiving additional calls, police realized their mistake and headed to the correct location.

Authorities initially said the first 911 callers had given the wrong address, but police retracted that this afternoon and said the dispatcher made the mistake.

"That was her error, not the caller's," St. Louis police spokeswoman Erica Van Ross said this afternoon. "It did get corrected within five minutes."

The man had been hit by the time police arrived at the correct location, but it is not clear if the mistake made a difference.

Police believe they know the dead man's identity, but are waiting for confirmation before releasing his name.

The truck driver refused medical treatment, fire officials say. The St. Louis Police Department's accident reconstruction team was dispatched to the scene.

Westbound lanes opened about 2 p.m.; eastbound lanes opened at 3:30.

Lt. Carlos Ross, commander of traffic safety, said the wrong location caused an obvious delay for police officers.

"My officer had a call for 70 and Riverview," Ross said. "He didn't see anything and he was going to check 270 and Riverview. A little after that, there was a call for an accident with injuries."

The man was struck, but his car wasn't damaged, Ross said. It was a Mercury Grand Marquis. The first officer on the scene said the car's harzard flashers were on but they were dim, Ross said.

A clerk at the Motomart gas station on Riverview Boulevard, Casaundra Markley, said she called 911 with the correct information.

"There was a customer who came in here and said, 'You want to do a good deed today?' I said, 'Sure, what's up?'" Markley recalled, in a 10 a.m. interview with the Post-Dispatch.

Markley, 21, said the customer then told her: "There's a guy pushing a car on the bridge, and he's going to get himself killed."

So she called 911.

"I said there was a guy pushing the car on the bridge," she said.

About 10 minutes later, she said, she looked outside and saw the flames. She called 911 again to report the fire.

Ross said the bridge with no shoulder was a dangerous spot for someone with a disabled car.

"Definitely, it's not safe to try to push your vehicle where there is another lane of travel," Ross said.

Firefighters had a tough time fighting the blaze because they had to send some firefighters off the bridge to load up with water at nearby hydrants, said Capt. Dan Sutter of the St. Louis Fire Department.

"It made fighting the fire more difficult, but they certainly did a great job in such a remote location," Sutter said.

 

David Carson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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