Woman Dies Falling Through Fla. Drawbridge After Bystander Tries to Help But Loses Grip

“Tragically she fell five or six stories,” West Palm Beach Police say

Royal Park Bridge
Royal Park Bridge. Photo: West Palm Beach Police Department

A woman died on Sunday afternoon after falling from Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the woman — who has not been identified by name — was walking across the bridge with her bicycle when the drawbridge began to rise, according to The Palm Beach Post. At the time, she was about 10 feet away from the end of the bridge, which connects the city to Palm Beach.

"She was walking her bike from east to west and had almost reached the furthest point of the moveable span when it went up," West Palm Beach Police spokesman Mike Jachles told the newspaper.

As she began to fall, a bystander grabbed her but was ultimately unable to maintain their grip, police told The Palm Beach Post.

"The woman tried to hang on. There was a bystander nearby who tried to help her, but tragically she fell five or six stories" before landing on concrete, Jachles told NBC affiliate WPTV.

Following the fatal fall, the bridge was closed for several hours before reopening around 7 p.m.

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Police said a bridge tender — who is in charge of operation and safe passage — was on duty at the time.

"That bridge tender has certain safety protocols to follow," Jachles told WPTV, explaining that the protocols include "making several visual confirmation that there is nobody at either of the spans or past those gates" before the gate rises.

Bicycle safety advocate Juan Orellana, who said the bridge is often used by bicyclists, told the outlet that one of those protocols involves the ringing of a bell.

"When you hear the bell you gotta get out of the way before the bridge goes up," Orellana said.

According to The Palm Beach Post, responding police officers described the bridge tender as "distraught."

An investigation is currently underway to determine why the drawbridge began to open before all pedestrians were able to safely get across.

"At some point it opened," Jachles told The Palm Beach Post, noting that the actions the bridge tender took before the bridge opened will be looked at closely.

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