A 77-year-old man visiting Milwaukee with his wife was killed this week when the drawbridge he was walking across began to open, causing him to plunge to his death.
Richard Charles Dujardin, of Providence, Rhode Island, was about halfway across a bridge near Kilbourn Avenue and Riverwalk Walk on Monday when it began to rise, according to a Milwaukee County medical examiner's report.
His wife, Rosemarie Dujardin, had already made it across to the other side.
"He tried to catch up to her but was not fast enough. He grabbed onto the side rail, but ultimately lost his grip and fell onto the pavement below," the report says.
Dujardin fell an estimated 71 feet and suffered severe head trauma, the medical examiner said. Police performed CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
His wife told authorities that they had arrived in Milwaukee on Friday and were staying at a hotel downtown, according to the medical examiner’s report. They were scheduled to fly home on the day of the accident.
The medical examiner said Dujardin was looking at an iPad as he was crossing the drawbridge. His wife said he was typically a slow walker and used a hearing aid.
"The lights, bells, and arms came down at each end of the bridge, however Richard was hard of hearing and it is thought that he didn’t notice them. When it started to rise he panicked and grabbed onto the side rail," according to the report.
The bridge rose to a 90-degree angle. Dujardin held on for one or two minutes before he lost his grip and fell.
About seven drawbridges, including the one Dujardin was on, are operated remotely from a location on Water Street. The operator has two live camera views and has to check the cameras before the bridge can be opened, the report says.
The video shows that Dujardin was still on the bridge when it began to open, the medical examiner wrote, noting that he was "wearing dark colored clothing, and the railing of the bridge is dark green."
Milwaukee police said Wednesday that there is no suspicion of a crime but that the death remains under investigation. The bridge operator has been placed on leave, a standard practice, said a spokesperson for the Milwaukee Department of Public Works.
"We at the Department of Public Works send our deepest sympathy to the family and friends who lost their loved one from a tragic event at the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge on Monday," interim Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke said in a statement.
"Our employee during the time of the incident was fully trained and in his fourth year as a bridge operator having conducted hundreds of bridge openings."
The tragic incident comes six months after a 79-year-old woman fell to her death in Florida after the Royal Park Bridge opened as she was walking her bike across it. She was about 10 feet from the end of the bridge when she fell, NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach reported.
About a month later, bridge operator Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, was arrested on a charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence. Police said video evidence contradicted Paulk's statements that she walked outside to check the bridge for vehicles and pedestrians before she opened it, according to WPTV. Paulk has been released after she posted bail.