Mayor Krewson's Office Blames Driver for Fatal Bridge Accident

Defends integrity of Union Avenue bridge

Kevin Killeen
July 25, 2018 - 2:33 pm

Brett Blume/KMOX


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Mayor Lyda Krewson's administration is defending the integrity of the bridge from which a ton of concrete fell Monday, killing the wife of the former St. Louis police chief driving a car below. 

The mayor's director of operations, Todd Waelterman, says the section of concrete that fell was anchored on steel pins and wouldn't have fallen, if the driver on the bridge hadn't struck it driving too fast.

Kevin Killeen/KMOX

"When you consider that this vehicle jumped the curb, went across the sidewalk, struck a traffic signal, knocked it down like a branch, and then proceeded another 10 feet and hit a 2,500 pound piece of concrete and moved it 3 or 4 feet off the edge of the bridge -- you can't design for the oddities, and that's what we had there," Waelterman said.

The falling concrete struck a Tesla on Forest Park Parkway driven by Janet-Torrisi Mokwa, 58, the wife of former police chief Joe Mokwa, killing her instantly.

St. Louis police have not yet released their report on how the woman lost control of her car and struck the bridge.

Asked if the same thing could happen again, Waelterman admits it could.

"Absolutely, if you get somebody driving at that speed, completely ignoring the traffic signals out there, regardless of the curbs - which we try to use to keep people on the pavement -- absolutely. You can go down there right now and drive off the end of a bridge," Waelterman said.

For now, a 4,000-pound concrete jersey barrier has been placed in the missing gap on the bridge railing, and Waelterman says "discussions are underway" to possibly put jersey barriers along the full length of the bridge railings.

Waelterman was asked about a federal report that rated the Union Avenue bridge as "deficient."

"You have to understand," he said, "it's functional deficient. And honestly, the whole word 'deficient' comes in, because if you don't have that word in the report, those people in D.C., those congressmen aren't going to fund something that everybody acts like it's happy. So, the feds require you to use those words."

Built in 1961, the Union Avenue bridge is not currently scheduled for replacement, but Waelterman says it might be replaced in five to 10 years.