MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A 2020 inspection of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge shows several warnings to monitor cracks, but no mention about a major crack that resulted in the bridge’s closure this week.
Still, in the 2020 inspection, the Hernando DeSoto Bridge received fair marks. Two civil engineering experts who reviewed the inspection reports for WREG said they found no red flags.
The 120-page report includes several photos of cracked supporting columns, even a crack as small as less than an inch and a half. Inspectors also make note of rust and grout deterioration, which inspectors called a priority.
But the reports says nothing about what we now know is a major crack — more a separation — in the middle of the bridge.
That’s concerning because a man who took a river cruise in the summer of 2019 gave photos to WREG, showing what he thinks is the beginning of the crack.
And now the Arkansas Department of Transportation confirms their inspectors’ drone footage spotted evidence of the damage in May of 2019, meaning it started building at least two years ago.
We spoke with Jialang Le and Lauren Linderman about this case. Both teach civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. Linderman is part of a team studying the after-effects of this memorable I-35 bridge collapse in 2007.
They say it is possible inspectors could’ve missed the crack at times.
“Cracks may not always be visible depending on how it’s loaded. Sometimes they’ll close so you may not see it,” Linderman said.
The inspection also notes they couldn’t set eyes on the entire bridge due to the construction on the nearby convention center.
How close did we get to disaster? There’s no real way to know, but the experts said it is unlikely. They were unaware of other bridge collapses that stemmed from fatigue issues.