If you’ve ever been on a Georgia interstate and had car trouble, ran out of gas, or was in an accident, chances are a HERO vehicle responded. Highway Emergency Response Operators, also known as HEROs, are responsible for a number of things on Georgia interstates. Not only do they help out motorists stranded with flat tires or empty gas tanks, they can also clear debris from roadways, tag or remove abandoned vehicles, and they also help police respond to crash scenes, getting them cleared more quickly. The program began in 1994 as part of Atlanta’s preparation for the 1996 Olympics.
WSB TV reports that Channel 2 investigators learned that the Georgia Department of Transportation radios weren’t working in some areas of the Atlanta metro area.
In March, Channel 2 Action News received a video from police bodycam footage of a HERO operator pushing a stalled vehicle off of a trainee on the Downtown Connector at University Avenue.
Just hours after the accident that left the trainee with serious injuries, HERO’s assistant manager sent an urgent email to his boss. The email linked concerns about the radios to the accident. The email revealed that no one could hear the HERO operator over the radio as he called for help. The Atlanta police officer was the person who requested the ambulance.
Two days after the accident, another supervisor sent another email to his bosses. He expressed concerns about the new radio system. He wrote in the email, “I will not put my guys’ life out on the line with no reliable communications.”
Dead zones revealed through emails included parts of the Downtown Connector, Langford Parkway, parts of Interstate 285, Buford Highway, as well as areas of I-575 and I-75 in Cobb County.
Emails went back and forth detailing the concerns about the dead zones. It wasn’t until Channel 2 began investigating that the concerns were taken seriously.
In October, the GDOT gave HERO operators new radios.
The trainee has not yet returned to the job and is still recovering from his injuries.