A tragic mistake in Florida on Sunday involving a drawbridge has left one woman dead and others horrified at what had occurred.
An investigation has been launched to determine how and why the Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach, Florida was opened while an elderly woman was walking her bicycle across it, sending her plummeting to her death, according to the Washington Examiner.
Woman still on drawbridge as it opened
Per a report from local outlet WESH, the 79-year-old victim in Sunday’s deadly incident has been positively identified by authorities but her identity is not being released to the public.
Sadly, the police reported that the woman had very nearly reached the end of the bridge when it began to open and though she attempted to hang on to the railing as the bridge was raised — and a skateboarding passerby attempted to rescue her — she ultimately fell more than 50 feet to the concrete below.
“There was a man who tried to help this woman as she was holding on to the elevated bridge, but unfortunately he was not able to rescue her,” Mike Jachles, the West Palm Beach Police public information officer, told the media.
“Unfortunately and tragically, she fell, landing about 50 to 60 feet below, where the mechanical parts to the bridge are, and she died on impact,” he added.
How could this have happened?
Attention has now turned to the drawbridge itself, particularly the private contractors known as Florida Drawbridge, Inc. who operate it on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation and were, according to WESH, “very upset” over what had happened.
“There are crossing arms,” Jachles explained of the bridge-raising process. “There are warning signs and there are safety procedures in place for the bridge tenders to follow, with multiple steps and multiple layers of checking to make sure that there are no cars or people on the bridge when it goes up.”
“So that’s all part of the investigation, to determine whether procedure was followed or whether this woman crossed after the signals were down,” he added.
Investigation ongoing following recovery of victim’s body
Local outlet WPTV reported that the West Palm Beach Fire Rescue’s Technical Rescue Team needed to use harnesses and ropes to lower themselves down to where the deceased victim had landed amid the concrete and machinery that operates the bridge.
The bridge, which connects Palm Beach with West Palm Beach, was reportedly closed for around six hours while the recovery and initial investigation took place. That investigation will continue, according to the police.
“Detectives are looking at whether all of the safety practices were followed,” the public information officer said. “There are a lot of questions, but we hope to have some answers to them.”