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Procedures that should be in place to prevent deaths on Milwaukee drawbridges

The drawbridges in Milwaukee are under federal regulation. They are allowed to operate from a remote location. All that is required is written authorization.
raised Kilbourn Bridge
Posted at 4:19 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 19:23:14-04

MILWAUKEE — A man is dead after falling from a drawbridge in downtown Milwaukee.

According to law enforcement, the man, whose wife crossed just ahead of him, was near the middle of the bridge when it went up and he tried to hang on for nearly two minutes before falling Monday.

raised Kilbourn Bridge
Kilbourn Avenue bridge fully raised, the day after a man fell to his death trying to cross it. (August 16, 2022)

The warning bells and gates are supposed to alert drivers and pedestrians that the drawbridges in Milwaukee are about to rise. In the city, river traffic gets the right away, meaning if a boat calls for the bridge to rise, then when it is safe, it goes up.

Richard Dujardin
Richard Dujardin, from Rhode Island, fell to his death on a Milwaukee drawbridge that raised while he was walking on it.

Surveillance video shows a man, now identified as Richard Dujardin from Rhode Island, about halfway across the bridge when according to reports, "the lights, bells, and arms came down at each end of the bridge" and it started to raise up.

RELATED COVERAGE: Newspaper reporter dies in fall from Kilbourn Bridge in downtown Milwaukee

Kilbourn Ave bridge
Cars wait behind the gates of the raised Kilbourn Avenue bridge in downtown Milwaukee. (August 16, 2022)

The bridge is controlled by a Department of Public Works (DPW) operator who watches cameras from a location on Water Street. DPW says the incident is still under investigation but the "employee was fully trained and in his fourth year as a bridge operator and had conducted hundreds of bridge openings." But could not say more because of the investigation.

DPW says Milwaukee has 20 movable bridges and about half of them operate like the Kilbourn Bridge through a remote operator. Reports from the investigation said, "Employees have two camera views of the bridge and have to check both cameras before allowing it to rise."

A similar situation happened earlier this year in West Palm Beach Florida. However, in that case, the on-site operator raised the drawbridge with a woman on it. She didn't survive the fall. Florida Defense Attorney and former Police Lieutenant Rick King works right next to that West Palm Beach drawbridge and explained why the former drawbridge operator is now facing criminal charges.

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Rick King, Attorney

"She's facing manslaughter by culpable negligence and in Florida, that means that she did something that she knew, or should have known would create an unreasonable risk and that can result in death a great bodily harm,” said King.

King says he was surprised the bridge operator in Florida was charged and that it is possible similar charges could be brought in Milwaukee.

“I believe that they could and here's the thing, the bridge tender is under an obligation to ensure that the bridge can open up without someone being on it. That's why the arms come down, that's why the bell sounds and that's why you're required to check both cameras probably multiple times to ensure that there's nobody in the space between the two arms,” said King.

According to our sister station WPTV in West Palm Beach, the drawbridge operators are now looking into lasers and artificial intelligence to stop a bridge operator from opening a drawbridge when a person or object is on it.

The drawbridges in Milwaukee are under federal regulation. They are allowed to operate from a remote location. All that is required is written authorization.

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