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Continued: 911 calls: Horror after bridge fell

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY and MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 24, 2007 - 11:48 PM

Sturgill: It's just me and another guy right now but there are separate parts. There's 25 people, at least 25 people here now.

'I just floored it'

The calls continued. A woman broke down as she told he operators what had happened. "Oh my gosh, people are, oh my gosh," she says, crying, according to the transcript.

Two minutes after nearly falling into the river, a driver who just barely made it across called in. "People fell. People fell," the caller says. "The construction workers were running. I just floored it. It was like 'The Dukes of Hazzard.'"

One irate driver called 10 minutes after the bridge collapse to complain about traffic backing up, prompting the 911 operator to hang up.

The calls poured in and, as the operators learned the scale of what had happened, they began cutting people off in mid-sentence, trying to shorten the calls.

The calls continued well past midnight, as people wanted to know more about what had happened or to offer help, said Williams.

Sturgill and the man in the Cadillac, whom he only knew as Omar, were rescued by boat after roughly half an hour on the broken bridge. That night, Sturgill spent a sleepless night at a Minneapolis hotel. The next day, his parents bought a plane ticket so he could get home.

Sturgill didn't go back to work for almost three weeks. He keeps thinking of the cars he saw partly buried in concrete, and how it might have been his had he been just a few feet ahead or behind.

"It's traumatic," he said by phone from San Diego on Friday. "It's one of those things where you lay in bed at night and play it over and over.

"I feel blessed, but it's scary. I feel really terrible to have been a part of this."

Since he returned home, he has talked by phone several times with Omar, and with a girl named Diana who was "covered in blood and grit" when he met her.

At first he called to see if they were all right. But he said he will call them again. They were there, too, and they know what it was like.

mckinney@startribune.com • 612-673-7329 smetan@startribune.com • 612-673-7380

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