MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A rescue operation blocked traffic for hours on the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis on Wednesday as crews searched for a person underneath the bridge.
But when the bridge reopened a few hours later, police said they were unable to find anyone, and it was unclear whether anyone was ever under the bridge at all.
“We are unsure if anyone was ever underneath the bridge or not. TDOT contacted us based on what they saw on one of their cameras from the other bridge,” a Memphis Police spokesperson said.
Memphis Police said they were notified by TDOT at 9:47 a.m. Wednesday that a person had gone over the edge of the I-40 bridge and was walking on a platform.
The I-40 eastbound lanes of the Hernando DeSoto bridge were closed, and traffic was backed up to the I-40 and I-55 split in West Memphis by noon Wednesday.
According to the Memphis Fire Department, officials were trying to reach a male underneath the bridge deck. Crews went out over the edge of the bridge in a bucket truck to inspect for anyone.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Memphis Police said in a tweet that they checked under the bridge with TDOT assistance, but were unable to locate anyone.
Rescue trucks began rolling out and the bridge and traffic began moving in both directions.
The Hernando DeSoto Bridge, which takes I-40 over the Mississippi River between Memphis, Tenn., and West Memphis, Ark., carries nearly 40,000 vehicles a day. In 2021, the bridge was shut down for weeks after inspectors found a large crack in a metal beam.
In a separate wreck in Arkansas, one person died on I-55 near Exit 1, blocking the other interstate access between Arkansas and Memphis. The wreck was reported at noon on Wednesday.