Fired I-40 bridge inspector said safety concern kept him from seeing fracture, record shows

MID-SOUTH — Officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation have released more information about an employee who was fired after a routine inspection revealed a fracture in the I-40 bridge.

Officials said the former employee, identified as Monty Frazier, “failed to carry out his responsibilities.”

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“From our investigation, we have determined that the same employee who conducted the inspection in both 2019 and 2020 failed to carry out his responsibilities correctly,” Director Lorie Tudor said.

An ARDOT personnel authorization form shows Frazier last worked May 14, three days after the bridge was shut down to traffic.

Frazier worked in the company’s heavy bridge maintenance division making nearly $75,000 a year, records show.

Here are the alternate routes to get you around the I-40 bridge closure

According to an interoffice memo obtained by FOX13, the crack in the bridge was visible during 2019 and 2020 inspections and would have been discovered if “proper fracture critical inspection procedures were followed.”

The memo is from the state’s HBM engineer, Michael Hill, to the assistant chief engineer of operations, Steve Frisbee.

The memo states by the time the crack was discovered in the bridge, it had turned into a partial fracture of a tie girder and was severe enough to put the bridge in jeopardy of failing.

Frazier was the team leader on both inspections in 2019 and 2020 and the under-bridge inspection unit operator.

Frazier neglected his responsibilities to “follow proper fracture critical inspection techniques by getting within arm’s length of the outside of the tie girder,” Hill wrote.

The memo also states Frazier’s negligence is why the crack wasn’t discovered earlier.

TDOT has a website dedicated to the I-40 bridge repair here.

According to the document, Frazier said it was unsafe to run the under-bridge unit in that manner when asked why he didn’t move along the outside of the tie girder.

This is not true, Hill wrote. Standard practice is to bloom out along the tie girder, looking for cracks. Mr. Frazier had done this himself when another operated the under-bridge inspection unit. The unit also has safety features that keep one from moving into an unstable position.

The memo ultimately recommends Frazier’s termination from the position of statewide bridge inspector for “dereliction of duty.”

CONFIRMED: 2019 video shows damage in fractured area of I-40 bridge, ARDOT says