Updated 1:53 p.m. ET, 2/28/2014
(CNN) – Officials in Fort Lee, New Jersey released 911 audio Friday from September when two out of three access lanes were closed to the George Washington Bridge, ultimately causing massive traffic gridlock across the city for four days in a controversy that has roiled the Christie administration.
The 26 hours of emergency dispatch audio opens a window into the agitation experienced by motorists that week and whether the traffic jam, which was allegedly orchestrated by top former appointees of Gov. Chris Christie, led to harm or death due to delayed emergency response time from the unusually high congestion.
Dispatches from the field
Audio between dispatchers and first responders shows that traffic was quickly becoming a problem on the first day of the lane closures, as they were "getting calls from irate motorists" by 9 a.m. ET.
A series of quotes show mounting frustration throughout the morning, though it's unclear whether it was dispatchers or first responders in the field talking in the following quotes:
"Do you know if anything happened on the bridge?" one person could be heard saying around 7 a.m.
A separate audio recording from an hour later: "Hey, 2-11, Ft. Lee Traffic is a nightmare!"
Around 9 a.m. ET: "It's backed up partly all the way back into Clearside, it's all due to the PA new pattern."
"You are aware that the town is in total gridlock, correct?" one officer could be heart saying.
A couple days later, one dispatch indicates that someone tried to get one of the lanes reopened: "Can you, uh, call Port Authority and get somebody to open up [gate?] 2."
Paramedic delays were flagged on the second day of the lane closures when Fort Lee EMS coordinator Paul Favia wrote a letter to the mayor saying the snarled traffic was "causing unnecessary delays for emergency services."
Trips that should have taken just a few minutes took up to three times longer, Favia wrote. In one instance, the EMS director said he was forced to jump a curb to escape traffic that was at a standstill while he was responding to a car accident with multiple injuries.
According to the audio released Friday, one woman called three times within the span of nine minutes, asking for an ambulance: "Yes, I called. Where are they?" The operator responded saying first responders were on their way, as the operator had said in the previous two calls.
In a separate incident, a dispatcher says, "the medics were notified. It is a possible head injury. She has been waiting for over an hour."
A different dispatcher reports on the gridlock: "They have a new pattern. They are testing a new pattern for traffic from [inaudible] Washington. It is down to one lane now."
Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, expressed outrage when he heard about the closures at the end of the week and immediately called for the lanes to be reopened.
In his e-mail, which was sent to a number of high-ranking officials on the Port Authority, Foye said, "I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed."
In one high-profile case, critics raised questions about the death of a 91-year-old woman, who died in cardiac arrest that week while paramedics tried to save her. Her daughter told CNN affiliate WABC that she didn't believe the traffic trouble was a factor in Florence Genova's death.
"I really don't think so, no, I really don't. I think she was 91 and really believe in my heart that she was already gone when the ambulance got (to her house)," Vilma Oleri told the station.
A CNN review of government records shows 61 car accidents on or near the George Washington Bridge the week of the now infamous lane closures. The number of accidents is about average. But CNN spoke with multiple people involved in the wrecks who all say the traffic nightmare was directly to blame.
When drivers stuck in traffic complained to Port Authority police, officers at the bridge were told to direct concerns to Fort Lee's mayor, Mark Sokolich. The order suggested the lane closures were an act of political retribution against the Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid last year.
The allegations have mushroomed into a scandal that has called into question Christie's forceful governing style and clouded potential prospects of a 2016 Republican presidential bid.
Christie has denied any knowledge of the traffic mess until after it ended and only after it appeared in media reports.
He also denies knowing of any political mischief involving staffers or appointees at the Port Authority, which oversees bridge operations.
On a radio program on Wednesday night, Christie defended his handling of the matter before it made national headlines in January and said he would not let the scandal distract him from his "real job."
Curt Devine, Jessica Jimenez, Chris Boyette, Mary Kay Mallonee, Janelle Davis, Eden Pontz, and Julia Talanova contributed to this report.