911 call: 3 people in car in river - or debris?

Posted at 11:47 AM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 17:36:40-04

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NEWPORT, Ky. – A 911 caller reported seeing three people in the water, but then wondered if it was debris after a car fell into the Ohio River off the Combs-Hehl Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.

"Yeah, I see two heads. Three heads. Aw, man," the caller said.

Another caller identified the vehicle as a red SUV. Officials released 911 calls Thursday.

Several drivers and nearby residents made frantic calls to report a car falling off the I-275 bridge following a series of accidents near the Kellogg Avenue exit. Police have not confirmed any details about the number of people in the car or its color or model.

You can listen to clips of the 911 calls here. Below are partial transcripts of some of the calls:

Caller: Car flipped off the bridge into the water. We don't see anything now. We see somebody's head. Two people with their heads up out of the water.

Dispatcher: OK.

Caller: Yeah, they're not going to make it.

Dispatcher: Water rescue rolling.

Caller: Yeah, I see two heads. Three heads. Aw, man.

Dispatcher: I'm going to stay on the line with you since you see them. Try to keep an eye on them if you can for me.

Caller: Yeah, I see their heads. WelI, I  guess that's their heads. Or it's debris.

Dispatcher: OK, you still see them?

Caller: Yeah, I can see one head now. You know, I'm not even sure. Debris from the car? It could be.

Dispatcher: Do you actually see people or do you think it's debris from the car?

Caller: It's one of the two ... They're almost all the way across the river on me.


Police say they still don't know how many people were in the car or their identity.

Rescuers located the car in the water near the bridge within hours Tuesday, but they haven't attempted to raise it because of high water and swift currents. They may not be able to try until Sunday or Monday, officials said.

Here are transcripts from some other calls:


Caller: Car in the river, 275 bridge right in the middle of the Ohio River.  A car flipped over, a red SUV, it went in the river.

Dispatcher: It’s from the Combs-Hehl Bridge?

Caller: Yes sir, yes sir. It’s been underwater for five minutes now and I don’t see anyone.

Caller: Sir, there was a big pileup and the red SUV fell into the river. I watched it. It went over the bridge into the river! I don't know how many people were in it.


Caller: I just witnessed a car being hit and it went into the Ohio River right next to the bridge pier - just now.

Dispatcher: Stay on the line here.


Caller: There’s a car that just went off the 275 bridge into the water.


The car fell off the bridge during a "horrifying" series of crashes just before 4:30 p.m. Witnesses said a semi plowed into cars stopped on the eastbound lanes because of a fender-bender at the Ohio end of the bridge. There were 12 vehicles involved, police said. There were no life-threatening injuries among the people in the vehicles on the bridge, police said.

"Due to already high and rising water levels, strong currents and risks to recovery personnel and divers," the Boone County Water Rescue Team will wait to resume its efforts to pull the car from the water until Sunday or Monday, the Campbell County Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.

Campbell County Police ask that anybody who is unable to account for friends or family who may have been traveling the I-275 route Tuesday to contact them at 859-547-3100.

WCPO will update this story.

RELATED: More details on the crashes and the efforts to retrieve the car from the river.