Mike Nowatzki, Published December 16 2008
Police release tapes of calls about rutPolice recordings of phone calls show Fargo Public Works was told about a dangerous rut on South University Drive nearly two days before a fatal crash there last week.
The recordings were released Monday by police amid a city investigation into who knew about the rut and when it was first reported.
The city launched an investigation after 8-year-old Amanda Leininger of Fargo died Wednesday in a multi-vehicle crash near South University Drive and El Cano Drive.
The recordings consist of two calls made two minutes apart on Monday, Dec. 8.
The first recording is a call from Officer Troy Hannig to the Red River Regional Dispatch Center at 8:47 a.m., about an hour after responding to an accident at the same spot.
He asks the dispatcher to “have the street department come out” to address “a huge rut along the side of the road.”
“It’s on the west side of the road, and everybody seems to be – they can’t really tell where the edge of the road is, so people are hitting this rut, and then they crank the wheel to the left and end up in the center of the road or in the ditch,” Hannig says.
In the second call at 8:49 a.m., the dispatcher relays the message to a female employee at Fargo Public Works, saying “it’s causing a lot of accidents in that area.”
“OK,” the employee says, later adding, “They can go out there and look.”
At 7:50 a.m. Wednesday, a car driven by 15-year-old Jessica Leininger was broadsided. Her sister, Amanda, died at 2:30 p.m. that day at Innovis Hospital.
That accident report hasn’t been completed, although Mayor Dennis Walaker said last week, “The rut caused the accident.”
Sgt. Jeff Skuza said the investigation results may be completed later this week.
City Attorney Erik Johnson said city officials are still trying to sort out who knew about the rut, and when.
Meanwhile, police compiled all of the reported crashes from Jan. 1 to Friday on South University Drive between 40th and 52nd avenues. It lists seven total crashes, including Wednesday’s crash and three that mention wheels getting stuck in a rut or track in the 4300 block of South University.
The previous accidents mentioning the rut occurred during the three days preceding Wednesday’s crash – at 10:50 a.m. Dec. 7, 7:45 a.m. Dec. 8 and 6:49 a.m. Dec. 9.
Last week, City Public Works Manager Al Weigel said his office received an email about the Dec. 9 crash and staff inspected it. Crews were on the way to repair it Wednesday when the fatal accident happened.
According to police records, three other crashes along that stretch took place at the 40th Avenue South intersection.