MILWAUKEE — No criminal charges will be filed in the drawbridge death of 77-year-old Richard Charles Dujardin, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said Friday.
Dujardin died on Aug. 15 after officials say he fell 70 feet from the Kilbourn Ave. drawbridge.
According to a news release from the DA's office, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) conducted an investigation that included an interview with the bridge operator on that day. MPD inspected the area, the footage from a nearby traffic camera, and interviewed witnesses.
The DA's office said there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the operator or anyone else in relation to Dujardin's death.
"The District Attorney's Office has concluded its review of this matter and will take no further action," the DA's office said.
Dujardin's wife, Rose-Marie, previously told TMJ4 News that he was a reporter at the Providence Journal. They had six children and were married for 54 years. The couple had been on vacation when Dujardin died.
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.
Rose-Marie was with him and saw it happen. She was further ahead on the bridge and made it across. She screamed to her husband.
“She’s still going through the shock of that,” said Jay Urban, who is representing the Dujardin family. "Losing someone in a traumatic, unexpected way is horrible, but then to watch it too? That grief is unfathomable.”
While nothing can bring Richard back, the family wants to make sure no one else experiences their pain.
“They want to ensure this never happens again,” said Urban.
They are going forward with an independent investigation and plan to take legal action.
“The bridge system is flawed, particularly the remote operation,” said Urban.
Richard and Rose-Marie were already on the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge when alarm bells and lights went off, and the traffic gates started lowering, according to witnesses.
The bridge does not have an operator on site.
Instead, the operator in the Water Street Bridge tower a few blocks away, monitors other bridges on a TV screen.
“We had a bridge operator come forward anonymously saying this could have been any one of us,” said Urban. “They know the system is flawed and reported it.”
Urban is investigating the quality and placement of bridge cameras and why there isn’t a public announcement system.
“There are no signs on these bridges warning pedestrians that they can lift,” said Urban. "I mean, that’s an important warning."
Public works officials have defended the remote operations of bridges as a routine practice nationwide.