Emails show city officials talked about bridge dangers months before fatal crash

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ST. LOUIS – Emails between city officials obtained by Fox 2 News reveal warnings about the Lindell and Union bridge in the months before a bridge wall fell on a woman in July 2018, killing her.

Last summer, Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes requested copies of emails between St. Louis City officials to see what they discussed about the bridge before and after last summer’s fatal accident.

On July 23, 2018, a woman driving on the bridge hit the side wall and knocked a one-ton pylon onto Forest Park Parkway. It landed on the vehicle of Jan Torissi Mokwa, wife of former police chief Joe Mokwa. She died instantly.

After months of research and an almost $100 fee, the city of St. Louis provided the email we requested. They reveal city leaders were already concerned because of previous crashes. One email warning was just three months before July’s fatal crash. It was referring to a crash on April 3, 2018. The accident led the city’s chief construction engineer to ask for action.

In the email, the chief construction engineer wrote the city street commissioner, saying, “It was hit AGAIN! Please make it safe.”

The city took limited action in response. Workers placed barriers next to a damaged railing over the MetroLink tracks – but nothing was done to the area involved in the fatal crash that killed Torissi Mokwa in July.

After that fatal accident, St. Louis Director of Operations Todd Waelterman wrote an email saying, “Bridge is safe, accident report from police will come in a few months, this should shed a better light on events.”

Fox 2 got an exclusive look at that police report. It confirms the concerns about those bridge walls, noting the pylon that fell was “not a fixed one, but a yielding one.”

Fox 2 obtained the original plans from 1930. They show the pylons rest on the bridge and are not bolted down. Those original plans also show the bridge was built as a roundabout, which would feature a garden in the center. Nearby resident Bill Hannegan said that intended design would’ve made a big difference.

“Traveling in a circle, you’re not going to present the same danger to hitting the railing,” he said.

Hannegan said residents have warned the city for years about speeds there.

“It’s not supposed to be an artery of traffic,” he said. As of today, the entire bridge is lined with protective barriers. Former police chief Joe Mokwa settled with the city over the crash that killed his wife. The terms have never been made public.

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