Inspector who failed to catch interstate bridge crack fired

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An inspector who failed to discover a crack in the Interstate 40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee that prompted the span’s closure has been fired, Arkansas transportation officials said Monday.

Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor said the inspector was fired after drone video showed the crack on the bridge in May 2019. Tudor said the crack was not noted by the inspector in his reports that fall or the following year.

“This is unacceptable,” Tudor said at a news conference.

River traffic under the six-lane bridge was shut down Tuesday after inspectors found a “significant fracture” in one of two 900-foot (274-meter) horizontal steel beams that are critical for the bridge’s integrity.

Arkansas and Tennessee authorities have not given a timeline for when the bridge will reopen. The Tennessee Department of Transportation said Monday that the I-40 bridge repair will be done in two phases, and both steps must be completed before the bridge can be reopened for river traffic.

Arkansas’ DOT on Friday said drone footage by a consultant inspecting the bridge’s cables included an image of the beginning of the crack and significant rust.

Sainz reported from Memphis, Tenn.