An inspector with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) has been fired for failing to notice a large crack in a beam along the underside of a major bridge over the Mississippi River after years-old drone footage showed the same fracture, WKRN reports.
According to ArDOT Director Lorie Tudor, the same employee carried out inspections of the Hernando DeSoto I-40 bridge in both 2019 and 2020 but didn't note any damage along the bridge. Last week, officials noticed the crack and shut down the bridge "indefinitely," affecting traffic on both land and water. Barge traffic has since resumed, but the bridge remains closed to vehicles.
"We should have discovered the crack in this beam in 2019," Tudor said.
ArDOT released images captured by the drone in 2019 that shows the beam fracture underneath the bridge.
The inspector who failed to notice the fracture was fired, and the incident has been referred to federal authorities for a possible criminal investigation, she said, which could lead to charges against the former employee. All bridges they inspected over the past year will also be re-inspected.
Going forward, Tudor said, the department plans to address the problem by conducting both in-person and drone inspections.
"We will correct this problem," she said, "and we will become better for it."
Photo: Arkansas Department of Transportation