Cyclist falls to death when Florida drawbridge opens

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Cyclist falls to death when Florida drawbridge opens

A woman walking her bicycle across a Florida drawbridge fell more than 50 feet to her death when it opened — and landed on concrete below, authorities said.

The woman, whose name hasn’t been released, had been “walking her bicycle” across the Royal Park Bridge from Palm Beach into downtown West Palm Beach on Sunday, West Palm Beach police said.

She was within 10 feet of the drawbridge’s barrier arms that halt traffic when it started to rise, police told the Palm Beach Post.

“The woman tried to hang on,” police spokesman Mike Jachles said.

A man on the other side of the span quickly grabbed onto the woman’s arms, but couldn’t keep his grip, Jachles said.

“He tried to help her but he wasn’t able to hold onto her and she fell about five to six stories below,” Jachles said. “At some point it opened. The circumstances around that are under investigation by detectives.”

The Royal Park Bridge is closed to all traffic Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 as West Palm Beach police and fire rescue work on the scene in West Palm Beach, Fla.
A bystander tried to pull the woman to safety but lost his grip.
Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Post via AP

The woman, who died on impact, landed on the concrete below the bridge, Jachles told WPTV.

The fatal incident shut down the span for hours before it was reopened at about 7 p.m. Sunday.

A message seeking comment from West Palm Beach police was not immediately returned early Monday.

Authorities arrive at the scene of the incident.
Authorities arrive at the scene of the incident.
Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Post via AP

The bridge tender — whose actions prior to the span opening will be the focus of the probe — was “distraught” after the woman’s death, Jachles said.

The drawbridge is maintained by the state’s Department of Transportation, but a private state contractor employs the bridge’s tenders, the newspaper reported.

The Royal Park Bridge is trafficked heavily by bicyclists, according to local safety advocates.

The Royal Park Bridge is closed to all traffic Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 as West Palm Beach police and fire rescue work on the scene in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The woman was within 10 feet of the drawbridge’s barrier arms.
Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Post via AP

“Palm Beach is accessible only through three bridges and this is the main bridge, so it’s very used by cyclists,” advocate Juan Orellana told WPTV.

The span has clearly visible barriers and uses bells to alert people when it’s about to open, he said.

“For one thing, you will hear the bell before the arms go down, so when you hear the bell, you gotta get out of the way before the bridge goes up,” Orellana told the station.

The company contracted by state transportation officials to employ bridge tenders on the span is a firm named Florida Drawbridge, WPBF reported. It didn’t respond to a request for comment, the station reported.

“There are crossing arms,” Jachles told WPBF of the Royal Park Bridge. “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.”

It’s unclear whether the woman crossed the drawbridge after the standard safety precautions were taken, Jachles said.

A review of surveillance video is expected to be part of the ongoing probe, police said.

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