MILWAUKEE -- A Rhode Island man vacationing in Milwaukee fell to his death after a drawbridge was raised while he was walking across it.
Richard Dujardin, 77, of Providence, Rhode Island, was crossing the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge in downtown Milwaukee on Monday afternoon with his wife, according to a Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office report.
Rosemarie Dujardin made it across the bridge, which spans the Milwaukee River, but her husband was about halfway across when it began to open. He grabbed onto a side rail as the bridge sections rose to a 90-degree angle, but he lost his grip and fell about 70 feet (21 meters) to the pavement below, the report states.
He suffered a head wound and was pronounced dead at the scene, investigators said.
The bridge is controlled by the city’s Department of Public Works and its two halves are raised and lowered for boat traffic by someone working remotely who has two camera views of the span. The lights and bells were operational as the two sections were raised and crossing arms came down at each end of the bridge, according to investigators.
Rosemarie Dujardin told investigators that her husband was hard of hearing and wore glasses. The medical examiner's report said he was looking at an iPad while walking.
Police said in a statement that there is no suspicion of a criminal act, but that the investigation continues. Interim Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke said the employee who operated the bridge is in his fourth year and has conducted hundreds of bridge openings. He said the employee has been put on leave and offered counseling.
The department said in a statement that about half of the city's 20 bridges are operated remotely, calling it “a safe and standard industry practice.”