MILWAUKEE — A 77-year-old man died after he fell 70 feet from a raised drawbridge while vacationing with his wife in downtown Milwaukee on Monday, authorities say.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 77-year-old Richard Charles Dujardin. The victim's wife tells TMJ4 News that he was a reporter at the Providence Journal. They had six children and were married for 54 years.
The ME's report states the man and his wife were walking across the drawbridge when the bridge began to rise up. She was further ahead of him and he tried to catch up to her.
But he wasn't fast enough. He tried to grab onto a side rail but he lost his grip and fell 70 feet onto the pavement below.
Authorities say Dujardin was vacationing in Milwaukee with his wife.
WATCH: Video appears to show a man on the Kilbourn bridge as it begins to rise.
The ME's report states that the bridge's lights, bells and arms came down at each end before the platform began to rise. But Dujardin was hard of hearing - "it is thought that he didn't notice them," according to the ME.
When the bridge started to rise he panicked and grabbed onto the side rail. The bridge continued to rise until it was straight up at a 90-degree angle. He hung onto the railing for 1-2 minutes before falling.
The drawbridge is controlled by two city Department of Public Works workers. They have two cameras pointed at the bridge and have to check both before allowing the bridge to rise.
Interim Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke said in a statement that their employee during the incident was "fully trained", in his fourth year as a bridge operator and had opened bridges hundreds of times.
That worker is now on leave in connection with the incident.
The bridge is controlled by DPW from a location on Water Street. The location controls several bridges, possibly seven of them, the ME's report states.
On the Milwaukee River camera, video appears to show a man on the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge as it starts to rise. The man then appears to attempt to walk back towards the base of the bridge.
Police and paramedics arrived on the scene shortly after 12 p.m.
Potential for a settlement
Authorities have not mentioned the potential for a financial settlement, but there is already precedent for deaths on bridges.
Our sister station WPTV reports from Palm Beach, Florida that the city reached a $8.2 million settlement after a 79-year-old woman died after a bridge suddenly opened while she was walking on it earlier this year.
Carol Wright died on Feb. 6 when she was walking her bike across the Royal Park Bridge and it suddenly started going up.
She was 10 feet away from the end of the bridge when she fell to her death through a gap in the road.
The bridge tender on duty at the time was arrested and faces a charge of one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence in Wright's death.
Wright's family filed a lawsuit in March against Florida Drawbridges Inc., (FDI) the operator of the bridge, seeking monetary damages and industry safety changes.