Man claims city knew about deadly Ridgewood Road hazard and failed to fix it

Man claims city knew about deadly Ridgewood Road hazard and failed to fix it
Updated: May. 17, 2018 at 10:56 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Less than an hour before a future Jackson Academy graduate was killed, a contract laborer driving down Ridgewood Road said he contacted the city of Jackson and told them about the road hazard that led to her death.

"I was riding up Ridgewood, and I noticed the manhole cover was -- it had fallen in on one side and was sticking up, out of the ground," Kevin Curtis said.

Curtis did the first thing that came to mind: he called Jackson police.

"After I talked to the lady [at dispatch], she seemed unconcerned. They put me on hold and then transferred me to the Jackson Sewer Department, I think, is what she said," Curtis said.

He told them about the manhole cover and got off the phone.

Nearly 45 minutes later, 18-year-old Frances Fortner encountered what's believed to be that same manhole cover, which caused her car to flip upside down.

Fortner died shortly afterward.

That afternoon, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba visited the site for himself.

The contractor who initially resurfaced that section of roadway, Superior Asphalt, performed additional work after Thursday's wreck damaged the manhole, but failed to put any cones around the freshly packed asphalt.

Lumumba had his security team do it instead.

While it's still unclear whether the city or Superior Asphalt is at fault for causing that manhole cover to become a deadly hazard, Curtis says the city should have at least looked into the problem when he called.

"It definitely could have been prevented, had somebody just cared a little bit, you know, and radioed a police officer to go park in front of it until the city could come fix it. Completely preventable," Curtis said.

Superior Asphalt spokesperson Kenny Bush said that they finished work on that section of Ridgewood Road months ago, but had to raise the manholes to the same height as the roadway, and finished that Friday

Bush said the contractor turned the road back over to the city of Jackson at that point.

Lumumba issued a statement about the incident after speaking to the Fortner family.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Miss Frances Fortner," Lumumba said in the statement. "My sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and classmates of this young lady whose life was taken too soon. We are conducting a full investigation of the accident. More information will become available pending the outcome of the investigation."

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