On Thursday afternoon, a walkway by the UT Rowing Boathouse gave way when a geology class was standing on the walkway studying the Tennessee River for pollution on a class field trip.
Dr. Michael McKinney, whose class was on the walkway, had been taking his geology classes every semester for the past ten years.
“(I) never had any problems before,” McKinney said, expressing how completely surprised he was by the incident. “Needless to say, my field trip was badly disrupted.”
Over one hundred students were on the walkway. Students reported that they had heard creaking noises from the walkway, but thought that the sound was coming from the bridge above them. Soon after what several students described as a clanging noise, the walkway cracked and started sinking into the water.
McKinney and the students soon dispersed, running in different directions.
“I leapt onto the stairs while various groups of people ran in different directions to get off the bridge,” Deanna Sickles, freshman in business analytics, recalled.
Freshman in finance and student in the class Douglas Hicks said that the students were shocked as well.
“I was definitely surprised when it broke,” Hicks said. “There was no indication the bridge was unable to hold that weight.”
Sickles said that while it was a shock at the time it happened, she wasn't surprised in the end.
“The bridge looked pretty stable so it was surprising because i didn't give it a second thought,” Sickles said. “I think it was an accident, but in hindsight, about a hundred people on the bridge at the same time was probably not a good idea.”
Hicks agreed that the collapse was completely an accident.
“This was most certainly an accident. No one was putting unnecessary strain on the bridge,” Hicks said.
While Facilities Services is currently looking into the incident, Director of Facilities Services Sheree Spoons said that the main issue is figuring out whose jurisdiction the walkway is under.
“It is a bit of a tricky situation for Facility Services. They are in the process of finding out if it is city or UT and find out who actually is in charge right now,” Spoons said. “We don't know who is technically in charge right now but should find out very soon. Research is being done as we speak, I believe.”
Facilities Services is still investigating the incident. The Daily Beacon is continuing to gather information and the story will be updated as soon as possible.