West News Wire: When a drawbridge connecting Palm Beach and the Florida mainland began rising before she could reach the other side, a bicyclist died. According to police, a bystander attempted to drag her to safety but lost his grip.
The woman was walking her bicycle toward West Palm Beach on Sunday afternoon when the drawbridge began to move, authorities said. She was within 10 feet (3 meters) of the barrier arms that prevent traffic.
“The woman made an attempt to hold on. “A bystander nearby attempted to save her, but she unfortunately fell five or six stories below, landing on concrete,” West Palm Beach police spokesperson Mike Jachles said.
Why the bridge tender began raising the span before it was cleared of pedestrians will be a focus of the investigation, Jachles said. The bridge tender was described as “distraught,” the Palm Beach Post reported.
The Florida Department of Transportation maintains the bridge, but the bridge tenders are staffed by a private state contractor.
“Palm Beach is accessible only through three bridges and this is the main bridge, so it’s very used by cyclists,” bicycle safety advocate Juan Orellana told West Palm Beach television station WPTV.
The bridge is equipped with bells and whistles to alert drivers and pedestrians that the drawbridge is going up.
“For one thing you will hear the bell before the arms go down, so when you hear the bell you gotta get out of the way before the bridge goes up,” he said.
The woman’s name has not been released. The bridge was closed for more than six hours after the accident.