April 18, 2002
A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH FRANKIE WHELAN AND MIKE FINLEY REGARDING THE
TRUCK ACCIDENT ON THE MARK CLARK BRIDGE
Q. Do you have some sort of safety procedures in place for when something
like this happens?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Yes, we absolutely do. We certainly didn't have one necessarily
that would have an accident on the bridge, but I have to say my husband
had just arrived from New York, so I happened to be out in the parking
lot as the accident took place, and so I saw the truck hit the vehicle.
I didn't know it had hit a vehicle, but I saw it hit something, and everything
flew over the edge.
And the minute that happened, the Charleston Police were on it in a second.
I can't even begin to express my gratitude in how quickly they moved everybody
and effectively moved people to safety. My staff was on top of it as well.
And I think that we were prepared for something like this to happen, and
the police certainly were.
Q. Was the helicopter a police helicopter?
FRANKIE WHELAN: The helicopter I think probably was from the traffic news,
and it got out there and they came quickly.
MIKE FINLEY: I do believe it was the police, because actually the ground
officers were in contact with those folks on the bridge from the coordination
side of it just to make sure to keep people back.
Q. Did the police form the evacuation or did you all do that?
FRANKIE WHELAN: We did it together. I mean we knew that we had to get
people back because we didn't know what was in that truck. We didn't know
if it was propane or what was there.
I also have all my food and beverage, and all the staff that's back there,
so we needed to get them out regardless. We needed to move them, and it
was a decision that was just instantly made by everybody and everybody
coordinated and did it together.
Q. What was in those tanks?
MIKE FINLEY: I believe it was propane. Actually, our food and beverage
tent was right below where the accident happened, and our staff was actually
in that tent, and broken glass and a number of other objects, debris,
flew on that tent, so I mean we were, our staff especially, was a little
shaken and very, very fortunate that nobody was injured on the ground
and to my knowledge at this point on the bridge also.
Q. The glass broke on the ground or it sprayed down?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Yeah. It came down. It was a big sheet and it hit and
it broke right there.
Q. Monica Seles mentioned that she was in the shower when somebody
came in and told her to get out and they were evacuating. Are the showers
in the clubhouse or where are they?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Yes. They're in the clubhouse. There are showers that
are up in the stadium, but after the players play, they come back into
the clubhouse to shower and change.
Q. Do you know specifically what happened with the accident? We heard
a truck hit a police car. Do you have any details on exactly what happened?
FRANKIE WHELAN: The only details we have are that a police car stopped
to help a disabled car on the bridge, and the truck hit the police car.
Q. Were there a lot of players in the clubhouse that you guys had
to evacuate out of there or how did you handle that?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Yeah. Fortunately it wasn't Monday, so we didn't have
a full draw in there, and there were some on the courts obviously, playing,
and then there were some players that haven't quite left yet and were
going to leave today, so yes. And they were all gotten out immediately,
and they all did. They all moved just as fast ?? it was not even an issue.
MIKE FINLEY: We're fortunate that the Charleston Police does all of our
player security, so we had a number of officers in the building at the
time, which definitely helped the evacuation process.
Q. Anything like this happen before in the long history of this tournament?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Well, we've only been here two years, so ??
Q. I mean did anything like this ever happen at Hilton Head?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Not that I know of.
MIKE FINLEY: Not to our recollection, no. This is definitely something
very unusual and unfortunate.
Q. Do you have any idea how high the bridge is?
FRANKIE WHELAN: High.
MIKE FINLEY: Yeah, I have a pretty good ?? I think about somewhere around
100 feet at that point where the accident was.
Q. And it goes right over the food and beverage tent?
MIKE FINLEY: Yeah. We have our food and beverage storage area, and I think
?? you know, we have all of our bottled product, Coca?Cola product, bottled
water, et cetera.
Q. And if we were to say, I don't know, maybe you can estimate better
than we can, how many yards would that be say from the stadium court?
100 yards, 200 yards?
MIKE FINLEY: I'd say probably about 300 yards.
FRANKIE WHELAN: 300 yards.
Q. Stadium court or clubhouse?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Stadium.
MIKE FINLEY: From the clubhouse you're talking probably 100 yards from
the clubhouse, 300 yards from the stadium. Coca?Cola's been fantastic,
too. All the damaged product, which I think we had about 4,000 or $5,000
in damaged product, they're actually going back to their warehouse right
now and replacing it, so I think they've been a great partnership.
Q. Was it all stuff like Coke and bottled water? Was there food and
FRANKIE WHELAN: Yes. Because it was so hot and the product is turning
over so quickly, they've been just leaving the sides of the trucks up,
and so all the water and all the soot and everything that came down damaged
all that, so they're taking the trucks out and bringing new ones in with
new product which we're very thankful and grateful for.
Q. How long was play suspended? 45 minutes?
MIKE FINLEY: I'd say 35 to 40 minutes. I think, you know, and the important
thing, I know a lot of people have called about the match schedule tonight,
and matches are still on schedule. We should be hearing very shortly,
if the highway hasn't reopened yet, it should reopen very shortly.
FRANKIE WHELAN: Just before we came in, the tow truck was there to pull
the big truck off. So as soon as that happens, then the highway will open,
and I know that the traffic is very, very backed up going east, and it's
moving going west now. So it probably will be 45 minutes before it really
clears out and then we'll be fine, and it's now 5:30.
Q. Was anybody hurt in that truck, the propane truck?
FRANKIE WHELAN: Don't know that.
MIKE FINLEY: Not sure.
FRANKIE WHELAN: Hope not. Hope everybody was fine.
END OF INTERVIEW