An elderly man who was visiting Milwaukee died on Monday, August 15, after he tried to cross the Kilbourn Avenue bridge at River Parkway when it was rising. Th 77-year-old has been identified as Richard Dujardin.
Dujardin was a resident of Providence, Rhode Island, and a longtime religious writer. According to the medical examiner’s report, he and his wife, Rosemarie, were walking eastbound across the drawbridge when the incident occurred.
Each time the bridge prepares to rise, the bell rings, lights flash and a protective arm blocks the road and sidewalk on both sides of the bridge. However, Dujardin was hard of hearing, and it is believed he didn’t see them.
According to reports, as the bridge started to rise, he panicked and grabbed onto the side rail. The bridge continued to rise till it reached a 90-degree angle. The medical examiner’s report says that Richard held the railing for a minute or two before he lost control and fell to the pavement below, from an estimated height of 71ft.
The Milwaukee Department of Public Works reported that the bridge was controlled by an operator in the Water Street bridge house using video. The department revealed on Tuesday, August 16, that the employee at the time of the incident was fully trained and was in his fourth year as a bridge operator.
Follwoing the incident, the employee is on leave and is being counselled by the City’s Employee Assistance Program.
Rosemarie told the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office they had been in town since Friday, August 12. She said her husband could walk independently but used to walk slowly.
Meanwhile, three witnesses reported that though the barrier was down, they saw Dujardin trying to cross the bridge when it began to rise. Paula Lee, a witness, said, “I noticed that the bridge was up.” Firefighters and police officers rushed to the spot, but the victim was pronounced dead. Lee said, “I feel so bad for the family that had to go through this,” adding, “It’s just really a tragic day, of course. You take life for granted until something like this happens.”
As per reports, the Milwaukee police was asked if they were considering criminal charges. A spokesperson said on Monday, August 15 that the incident was still under investigation. The police, in a statement, said, “The Milwaukee Police Department sends our sincere condolences to the decedent’s family and friends who lost their loved one during this tragic incident.”