After taxi cab driver drowns in flood water, city officials say more education is needed

After taxi cab driver drowns in flood water, city officials say more education is needed
When Louisville experiences flash flooding, railroad underpasses -- also known as viaducts -- become dangerous traps for drivers.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There were numerous 911 calls, mixed locations and missed communication.

Officials finally talked about what went wrong on Saturday, Sept. 8, the night a taxi cab driver drowned in a flooded road in the Park Hill neighborhood of Louisville.

WAVE 3 News broke the story after learning there were multiple investigations into what happened.

Tuesday, emergency response officials confirmed there were multiple 911 calls, including that of the driver, the taxi company and from a passerby.

The passerby’s call was the one that finally got fire crews to the correct location at 13th and West Oak Streets.

During the press conference, officials said the cab company and the driver, Abdinasir Siyat, told them he was at Dixie and Oak. That’s where 18th Street turns into Dixie Highway. The driver was actually a few blocks away.

The initial call came from Yellow Cab at 8:44 p.m. but they couldn’t give MetroSafe his exact location.

MetroSafe tried to call Siyat twice.

Two minutes later, Siyat called 911 himself and told the dispatcher he was at Dixie and Oak. The fire department got to that location at 8:54 p.m., according to officials, but didn’t find him there.

Then a passerby called 911 and gave them the correct location of 13th and Oak Streets. Fire crews arrived there at 8:56 p.m. and within four minutes they entered the water.

At that point, Louisville’s Fire Chief Greg Frederick said the crew could not reach the car or check if someone was still inside because it was fully submerged in a few feet of water.

Louisville Fire Chief Greg Frederick
Louisville Fire Chief Greg Frederick (WAVE 3 News)

Rescuers tried to step onto the hood of the car, but the car started to move. Conditions were too dangerous for the team to go into the water to conduct a search, the chief said.

That’s when he said the fire crews returned to the shore.

When asked if fire crews knew at the time if someone was inside of the vehicle, the chief said they did not.

“I don’t believe they were aware of all the information that had gone on because when we deploy those resources, they’re not equipped with our-- with mobile data,” he said.

It is unclear if dispatchers relayed the message of the previous calls they’d received about a taxi cab in trouble.

Meanwhile, the Louisville Metro Public Services Chief, Doug Hamilton, said people are not getting the message to turn around and not enter high water. The same sentiment was echoed by a press release from the mayor’s office.

Officials said it’s evident people ignore warnings to not drive into floodwaters because of the 72 water rescue calls the fire department had to respond to during a two hour period when the rain was coming down fast and hard.

“Sept. 8 storm showed need for more public education and warnings,” the title of the press release reads.

The city’s response drew criticism after the storm for lack of preparedness and for what some on Metro Council called the city’s failing drainage system.

Barricades were also not set up ahead of the storm, despite there being meteorologists warning residents of a flood watch due to expected rain.

The press release did not address those issues.

However, Hamilton confirmed there were not any barricade set up or officers dispatched to block any of the roads that are known to historically flood -- that included the underpass at 13th and Oak Streets where Siyat died.

This is the viaduct where Siyat died during a flash flood.
This is the viaduct where Siyat died during a flash flood. (WAVE 3 News)

Hamilton said they expected two to three inches of rain, not the nearly four inches that came down.

There were a total of 296 calls to 911 received that night, compared to 99 calls that same date last year.

Hamilton said they are looking into ways to prevent people from driving into flood prone viaducts, perhaps by installing a new lighting system.

“At certain levels it would trigger warning lights on the viaducts that we would install in the deepest and steepest of viaducts that we have,” Hamilton explained.

The city is already planning to paint visible marks on the viaducts to let drivers know how high the water is.

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