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'She fell through the bridge when it was open,' fisherman says in 911 call during Royal Park Bridge rescue

Woman, 57, injured in fall from drawbridge opening
West Palm Beach police boat underneath Royal Park Bridge, April 10, 2023
Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-10 21:40:17-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A fisherman who helped rescue a woman after she fell from a drawbridge connecting Palm Beach to West Palm Beach called 911 and described to dispatchers how the bridge was raised before she made it across.

"Some girl fell through the bridge when it was open with her bike," the fisherman said in a 911 call released Monday.

The man said he was fishing in the area on the evening of April 2 when he came upon the injured 57-year-old woman on a landing beneath the Royal Park Bridge.

"She fell through the bridge when it was open when the boat went through," he said. "Like, her bike is up in there and everything."

A picture provided by the West Palm Beach Police Department showed the woman's bicycle wedged underneath the bridge's deck.

Photo of the bicycle wedged underneath the Royal Park Bridge deck after a woman fell on April 2.
Photo of the bicycle wedged underneath the Royal Park Bridge deck after a woman fell on April 2.

The fisherman was able to rescue her on his 16-foot skiff and take her to a nearby marina on the Palm Beach side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Police believe the woman fell about 6 to 10 feet.

"She's cut and bleeding and everything," her rescuer said in the 911 call.

Throughout the nearly 14-minute call, the man can be heard talking to the woman, asking her if she's in pain and then relaying the information to police.

"Her ear's cut open," he said. "Her arm looks like it's messed up pretty bad."

At one point during their conversation, the dispatcher asked the caller how the woman fell from the bridge.

"When she was crossing the bridge, they opened the bridge up for a big boat to go through before she got all the way to the other side, so she fell in where the hinges are," he said.

The fisherman was concerned that the bike could damage the gears to the drawbridge and cautioned against raising the bridge until the bike could be removed.

Police said the woman and 28-year-old bridge tender have been questioned about the incident. Although it isn't being criminally investigated, officers would like to speak with the victim again.

"It's a fact-finding mission right now to determine exactly what happened and to ensure those safeguards were followed and make sure that the woman who fell has an accurate recollection of the events that happened," West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said. "Certainly, it must have been traumatic for her."

The Palm Beach resident was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center to be treated for her injuries.

It's the second time a woman has fallen off the bridge in the last 14 months.

Carol Wright, 79, died Feb. 6, 2022, when she was walking her bike across the bridge when it suddenly started to raise. An $8.2 million settlement was reached after Florida Drawbridges Inc. was sued for her death.

Carol Wright, West Palm Beach drawbridge victim
Carol Wright died Feb. 6, 2022, when she was walking her bike across the Royal Park Bridge in downtown West Palm Beach.

Last March, Wright's niece, Jill Sanchez, spoke with WPTV about her aunt's death.

"This should have never happened," Sanchez said. "Until my aunt died a horrible death, there were way too many near misses that nobody knew about."

FDI also agreed to conduct criminal background checks on all bridge tenders, recertification training and rotate audits with out-of-area supervisors.

FDI's bridge tenders are also required to watch a video about Wright and how the tragedy devastated those who knew her.