Live 5 Investigates: Audio between SCDOT, SCHP released in Don Holt tarp collapse

Tarp covers a truck following collapse (Source: SCDOT)
Tarp covers a truck following collapse (Source: SCDOT)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Documents obtained from the South Carolina Department of Transportation show the tarp on the Don Holt bridge was secured three days before the major collapse last month.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, the contract between SCDOT and Eagle Industrial Painting, states the Department's inspector is required to submit daily written reports of cleaning and painting operations to the contractor's representative.

Audio recordings were also included in the FOIA received Monday night.

One call was made to South Carolina Highway Patrol from a concerned citizen, while the other is between SCHP and SCDOT. Both calls were made July 16, three days before the collapse.

"It looks like a flame, a big white flame coming out of the top of the bridge," said an SCDOT traffic management employee in the call. "But the sides of it look like they're still fastened. They don't look like they're flapping loose in the roadway."

This newly released recording between SCHP and SCDOT describes the interaction between the two agencies the Sunday before the major tarp collapse on the Don Holt bridge.

According to documents and recordings received from DOT through the Freedom of Information Act, Highway Patrol received a call from a concerned citizen at 1:16 p.m. Sunday, July 16 about the loose tarp.

"All this wind and rain could cause part of it to break away, and it is blowing in the breeze," said the concerned citizen.

Seconds after that phone call was disconnected, the dispatcher for Highway Patrol reported the concern to DOT.

"I'm looking for it underneath the bridge," said the SCDOT worker. "They've got tarps on both sides of that bridge where they're sandblasting and painting. But the one that's covering the top of the bridge is blowing up about 50 feet high."

According to the recording, the DOT worker said he would get a SHEP truck out there to take a look.

Daily reports from SCDOT, show no major issues on the project up until July 16.

On that day it was noted that one roof tarp on the truss became loose in between shifts. It states "…Eagle was able to secure the tarp and remove the water from the containment".

Monday documents show the loose tarp remained secure despite intermittent rain throughout the day and night. However, pending the weather, they would try and reinstall the tarp.

Tuesday, the roof tarp was reinstalled and Eagle completed maintenance and inspection, according to DOT documents.

Wednesday, July 19 states large sections of the upper truss containment were torn down and covered the bridge deck trapping several vehicles.

A preliminary report released last week by SCDOT states the tarp itself was not a factor in the failure which happened on July 19. Instead, the report points to weather conditions at the time, which was windy and rainy.

SCDOT notified Eagle Industrial Painting June 8, 2016, notifying the contractor about their winning $9.6 million bid for the painting project. The contract between the parties was signed July 29, 2016.

The contract states that Eagle Industrial Painting was required to notify the public, in a timely manner, of activities such as lane closures. This includes contact with news media, however, information on the project was not relayed to the news media by the contractor.

Completion of the project was scheduled for September 30, however, at this time it's unknown when the painting will be done.

SCDOT continues to work with the contractor to review the actions leading up to what the agency calls "this unprecedented incident."

A final report will be released as soon as all the data has been thoroughly reviewed, SCDOT officials say.

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