MEMPHIS, Tenn.– The East Memphis man who became a TikTok sensation by standing waist-deep in a sinkhole in a city street says the city’s response is full of holes, and he deserves an apology.
Traynor Jennings garnered more than 3 million views after posting a video he says was meant to draw attention to what he first believed was a pothole on Waring Road to get it fixed.
Thursday morning Public Works crews were inspecting a sewer line on Waring Road. They were using a remote camera to pinpoint the cause of the massive sinkhole Traynor Jennings stood waist-deep in to produce the viral TikTok video.
“Hey city of Memphis, there’s holes like this everywhere. We’re, like, in the middle of the street,” Jennings said in the video.
Jennings’ video on May 26th definitely got attention from the city. Within an hour or so of Jennings uploading it to TikTok, City Councilman Ford Canale saw it and dispatched a city crew to cover the hole.
But after a story appeared on wreg.com Wednesday, the city responded in a post on its Facebook page. They said that a steel plate had already been placed on the hole and insinuating Jennings moved the heavy steel plate to make his video, stating in part:
“This TicTok may be funny to watch, but it was unwise to remove the metal plate and place yourself into the cavity of washed away soil in the middle of a street.”
Jennings says that’s just plain wrong and told WREG Thursday morning that the city’s accusation amounts to slander.
“You know I didn’t sleep last night, I didn’t eat. I’m serious. I was trying to make change and they made me out to be some villain or something,” Jennings said.
Councilman Canale also took issue with the city’s remarks, emailing WREG:
“I saw the video and called public works to see if we could expedite getting a plate placed over the hole so that no one got injured. Mr. Jennings did not move the plate as that would be practically impossible for someone to do.”
He continued, “Unfortunate how everything played out.”
The city has since edited its Facebook post and deleted the reference to Jennings removing the plate.
“It would be great to have an apology of some sort,” Jennings said.
And Thursday afternoon, he got exactly that from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
“I don’t know about ‘slandering’ but he is correct, The city was wrong for that assertion. That has been removed. I take full responsibility for mistakes made by the city and I do apologize to him,” said Strickland.
The city says the sinkhole on Waring Road was caused by a “leak in an underground water line which led to erosion” and Public Works has to first fix the underground problem before the street can be repaired.
The steel plate still covers the sinkhole and drivers should use caution when driving on Waring Road north of Walnut Grove.