Woman Dies in Horrific Florida Drawbridge Accident—But Could It Ever Happen in Lafayette?
Over the weekend, a Florida woman fell to her death in a tragic drawbridge accident.
An investigation is underway after a 79-year-old woman was reportedly walking across a drawbridge with her bike when it began to open. The Royal Park bridge connects Palm Beach to West Palm Beach and according to police, the woman fell through a gap in the road.
This is particularly nightmarish because the woman was reportedly only ten feet from making it to the other side of the bridge when it raised and she even tried to "hang on" while a nearby bystander failed in their attempt to help.
The woman tried to hang on. There was a bystander nearby who tried to help her, but tragically she fell five or six stories below where she died landing on concrete
Surveillance video is currently being reviewed from the bridge that is the main link for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle drivers in the area.
There is a bridge tender, and that bridge tender has certain safety protocols to follow, specific safety protocols … that includes lowering of the gates for the vehicles, lowering of the gates for the pedestrians, and making several visual confirmations that there is nobody at either of the spans or past those gates.
This story was equal parts sad and wild to me, and the first thing that came to mind was: "could this ever happen in Lafayette?" That led me on an internet goose chase to find out where all the drawbridges were in town—and were they even functional?
Here's what I found, courtesy of some minimal Lafayette Consolidated Government searches and info from Bridgehunter.
Of all the bridges in Lafayette, four of them are either lift or swing bridges. This means the bridges move in some capacity to let large vessels move through the waterways that they cross over.
The Ambassador Caffery Bridge (LA 3073) is a swing bridge that goes over the Vermilion, not far from Academy and the Costco shopping center.
There is also a lift bridge on Milton road (LA 92) that crosses Bayou Vermilion.
Another lift bridge located on Pinhook at the Vermilion may be one of the most familiar landmarks in Lafayette.
Last but not least, the lift bridge on E. Broussard is also capable of raising up and down over the Vermilion.
So, could we see the same disastrous drawbridge situation play out on any of our drawbridges in Lafayette?
Technically, yes—but it would take a combination of brave and/or careless behavior on behalf of the person crossing the bridge and gross negligence on behalf of the bridgetender.
The fact that all of these bridges are very short in comparison to the Florida drawbridge that connects Palm Beach and West Palm Beach allows the bridgetender to have a really good view of who and what is on the bridge before opening it.
Pinhook is the only one of the four bridges that even remotely offers a sidewalk along the bridge that I've seen people using to get to Outback, Chilis, and other restaurants during their stay at the Doubletree—but overall, foot traffic across the bridge is sparse at best.
Like I said earlier, the entire bridge is very easy to scan within an eyeshot of the bridgetender booth located on the bridge so it would take tremendous oversight or something far worse to see a repeat of the Florida tragedy.
Regardless of the danger levels, let this serve as a reminder to be extra careful when crossing bridges or any movable structure to make sure you are following all the rules and safety precautions.
I won't even get into the number of people I know who have literal bridge anxiety, but maybe another story for another day?
For now, get the latest updates on the Florida drawbridge story via WBPF here.