Bridgegate 911 Tapes: Closures Caused Accidents, Port Authority Unresponsive

Bridgegate 911 Tapes: Closures Caused Accidents, Port Authority Unresponsive

The New Jersey Legislature is slowly releasing all the information delivered to them through the 20 subpoenas issued early this month. After releasing a new batch of texts from Bridgegate mastermind David Wildstein Thursday, on Friday they published every 911 phone call from the four days the bridge lanes were closed.

The 911 calls from enraged commuters to regional emergency personnel have been published by the Star-Ledger, and many of the calls during the week involved unusual circumstances on the George Washington Bridge. While the calls confirm that no one died as a result of the Wildstein-orchestrated shenanigans on the bridge that caused four-hour traffic delays, they do demonstrate that the circumstances for emergency personnel were less than ideal that week.

The calls were split between the four days of bridge closings, and while many have nothing to do with the incident (one sample call: “This is not an emergency… there’s a dead cat in the parking lot”) others are clearly individuals involved in crashes due to the surprise of finding lanes closed and being unable to merge, or being stuck on an express route, panicking, and causing an accident before anything could be done to stop it.

Several individuals called multiple times, complaining that no one had come to their aid. Others called multiple times stating that the Port Authority police were not responding or that the emergency operator’s attempt to transfer their call to the Port Authority failed.

On September 9, the first day of traffic problems, one woman involved in an accident on the George Washington Bridge told the 911 operator she crashed into another car because of her inability to transfer to her usual lane. “I was in the left lane because I couldn’t get over,” she explains exasperatedly. Another man involved in an accident on the way to New York City is asked, “left lane, right?” and corrects that he was actually in the right lane – another indication that commuters were shifted around from what would have been their usual positions on any other day.

The next day, a man stuck on the bridge with a flat tire called 911 multiple times after being transferred to the Port Authority. “Any time you try to transfer to them it cuts off,” he noted, which the operators could not explain. Another woman called three times for a non-traffic emergency, wondering why no one had yet to respond to her call.

On the third day, a woman stuck on the Hudson Parkway called twice: “I called about an hour ago… and I’m wondering if they are coming.” She was assured that they were but appears skeptical at how help could take so long to get to her. 

A separate incident on the Bridge that day then takes over most of the 911 calls: a truck carrying mattresses spilled them on the already limited road, triggering panic from drivers that find it difficult to explain why the road is littered with mattresses.

The last day of 911 calls had arguably the most evidence of the damage of the lane closures. In a conversation that appears to be between two commuters stuck in traffic who crashed into each other, one man yelled, “I didn’t even see you!” while the other, apparently the one hit harder, assured him, “It’s not your fault.” The same person is heard remarking, “I have patients, what am I going to do?” Neither are told whether help is on the way.

Two other accidents appear in this record: one in which a man said that he called the Port Authority “and they connected me, but then they didn’t talk to me,” and one in which a man was hit by a driver trying to escape through traffic but can’t park his damaged car anywhere to wait for assistance “because there is so much traffic here.”

The tapes will not provide a smoking gun linking Governor Christie to the bridge incident, nor will they do anything to prove that the act created more chaos than anyone already knew. What the tapes do manage is to provide a human factor to the story. While Wildstein and Kelly were joking about “the children of Buono voters,” there were real New Jerseyans in real emergency situations that were hurt and unattended to thanks to someone’s desire for political retribution.