911 call from towboat which struck I-40 bridge

Tuesday, June 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A new tape of emergency calls from the boat that hit the I-40 bridge. It's a story exclusive to the News on Six.

News on Six reporter Emory Bryan says this is the other side of those emergency calls to 911 and they stand out for a couple of reasons - mainly because they're the first tapes of calls the Captain made to the US Coast Guard. The tapes were recorded in the moments after the collision by the Memphis office of the Coast Guard.

The crew of the Robert Love called 911 first from a cell phone - then called the Coast Guard by radio for help. Ships Mate: "Mayday, Mayday Robert Love, Coast Guard." Coast Guard: "Vessel calling mayday, this is Coast Guard Memphis Lower." Ships Mate: "We just hit the I-40 bridge, people are running off the bridge and everything sir." Coast Guard: "Sir this is interstate 40?" Captain Joe Dedmon: "Roger, Roger. Need 911, Coast Guard, 911 up here, need medical sent right away."

Magnolia Marine, which owns and operates the towboat, says one of the voices on the tape - is that of the captain, Joe Dedmon. He told authorities at the scene that he "blacked out" sometime before the accident - and

Tuesday, Magnolia Marine confirmed Captain Dedmon has been diagnosed with "ventricular tachicardia" - a heart abnormality that can cause a person to faint.

That diagnosis will surely figure into the investigation of exactly how the accident happened - and precautions to prevent it from happening again.