Florida Bicyclist Falls to Death After Drawbridge Opens Unexpectedly While She Was Crossing It

The woman was walking her bike around 1 pm from Palm Beach to West Palm Beach and was within 10 feet of reaching the safety of the traffic-stopping barrier arm when the drawbridge began to rise.

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A woman plunged to her death on Sunday when a draw bridge in Florida began rising before she could complete crossing the stretch and reach the other end. The elderly woman, who is yet to be officially identified, fell at least 60 feet. She was walking the stretch with her bicycle when the incident happened.

According to West Palm Beach police, she was walking across the Royal Park Bridge, which connects the island of Palm Beach to Lakeview Avenue in West Palm Beach, at around 1 pm before being tragedy struck. The woman landed on the concrete below the bridge and died on impact.

Tragic Death

Florida drawbridge
The Florida drawbridge where the accident happened Twitter

According to police, the woman was within 10 feet of reaching the safety of the traffic-stopping barrier arm when the drawbridge began to rise.

"The woman tried to hang on," police spokesman Mike Jachles said. According to Jachles, a man on the other side of the chasm grabbed the woman's arms but couldn't hold his grip as she slipped past and plummeted.

"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 woman fell at least 60 feet and hit the concrete base of the 1,238-foot span over the Intercoastal Waterway. The woman, who died on impact, had landed on the concrete below the bridge, Jachles told WPTV.

Following the accident, the bridge was shut down for several hours before it was reopened around 7 pm on Sunday.

According to authorities, the victim was an "older" woman, possibly from West Palm Beach. It has become difficult to identify the woman as she was not carrying any ID with her.

Careless Mistake

Florida accident
The drawbridge had to be closed down for several hours after the accident, with traffic coming to a standstill Twitter

An investigation has been launched into the incident that has left many shocked. Jachles said that there was a bridge tender who is responsible for following safety protocols in managing the bridge. The investigation will focus on why the bridge tender began raising the span before it was cleared of pedestrians, according to Jachles.

The bridge tender was "distraught" after the woman died, according to Jachles. The woman's fatal fall was witnessed by others in cars as well as the female bridge tender.

The bridge tender was "obviously very upset," Jachles said, but he wouldn't say what she told detectives. The bridge is maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation, although the bridge tenders are staffed by a private state contractor.

Florida bridge
The spot where the accident happened Twitter

The West Palm Beach police investigation will focus on whether the bridge tender violated safety protocols by failing to ensure that no one was on the bridge before raising it, or whether the bicyclist disregarded warning signals and walked across the span after the crossing arms had already been lowered.

Going by the rules of manning the bridge, the tender must obtain several visual confirmations that the span is clear of autos and people before raising the drawbridge.

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

At the same time, police are also desperately trying to identify the woman. "So if anybody knows who this person might be, they're urged to contact the West Palm Beach Police Department," Jachles told reporters.