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Bicyclist killed in fall from opening Florida draw bridge identified, police say

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Posted at 11:49 AM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 13:49:54-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  — Florida detectives said late on Monday they were able to identify a woman who fell from an opening draw bridge in West Palm Beach and died after becoming stuck on it while riding her bicycle on Sunday.

The victim was identified as a 79-year-old Palm Beach County resident. Her name is being withheld under Marsy's Law.

The accident occurred just after 1 p.m. local time on Sunday. According to detectives, the woman was walking her bicycle across the bridge, which connects the island of Palm Beach to West Palm Beach. When the bridge gates came down an alarm sounded and the draw bridge started to rise up.

"The victim had almost completed traversing the bridge," West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said during a press conference early Monday. "She was about 10 feet from that fixed portion."

As the bridge ascended, a man on a skateboard tried desperately to help the woman hang onto the bridge.

"Despite those efforts, the woman was not able to hold on and she fell to the concrete landing below to her death," Jachles said. "From where the victim was, to where she landed, was approximately five to six stories, or 50 to 60 feet."

West Palm Beach Fire Rescue's Technical Rescue Team used ropes and harnesses to lower firefighters 50-60 feet beneath the bridge’s surface to reach the victim, who landed on a concrete surface where the mechanical components of the drawbridge are located, officials said.

"Detectives are looking at whether all of the safety practices were followed," Jachles said. "There are a lot of questions, but we hope to have some answers to them."

The bridge remained closed for six hours after authorities arrived on Sunday, so police could investigate.

This story was originally published by Monica Magalhaes of WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.