A bicyclist in West Palm Beach, Florida, fell to her death Sunday afternoon when a drawbridge she was attempting to cross began rising before she had reached the other side.
According to the Palm Beach Post, police said the woman was walking her bike across a moveable portion of the Royal Park Bridge — which connects Palm Beach to the Florida mainland — when the drawbridge suddenly started to rise, sending her careening off the end. She fell more than 50 feet onto the concrete below.
Officials added that a man standing on the other side of the barrier attempted to grab her arms and pull her to safety but could not maintain his grip.
"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 reportedly said.
Jachles added that the bystander "tried to help her but he wasn’t able to hold onto her and she fell about five to six stories below."
The incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday. For roughly the next six hours, the bridge and surrounding areas were closed to traffic as emergency responders recovered the woman's body and detectives surveyed the scene. The woman's identity has been determined, but police have declined to share it with the public.
Jachles told reporters an investigation into the incident has been launched. Why the drawbridge was moved before all pedestrians were able to clear it is expected to be a focal point of the probe, specifically with respect to the bridge tender's actions.
"There is a bridge tender, and that bridge tender has certain safety protocols to follow, specific safety protocols," Jachles said, according to WPTV-TV. "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."
Police said the bridge tender was "distraught" when interacting with rescue workers and detectives on the scene.
The bridge is maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation, but tenders are staffed by a private state contractor. It is reportedly a major thoroughfare for cyclists.
"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 WPTV.
He added that the bridge is equipped with barriers and bells alerting people when it is about to go 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," Orellana said.
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