WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (WPTV) — A frightening scene played out on a bridge in Florida.
Video from the Ocean Avenue Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Lantana shows a car driving on the drawbridge as the gate closes behind it in October 2021. The driver then stops at the edge of the drawbridge span. Thirty-three seconds later, the drawbridge begins to open with the driver still behind the wheel.
The bridge lifts the vehicle and it teeters over a pit with a 40-foot drop. Appearing panicked, the driver opens the car's door. The gravity slides the car forward and it slams into the pavement below.
The bridge closes and the unidentified driver gets back into his car and drives away.
The bridge tender who was on duty that day, now a former Palm Beach County employee, told investigators that she "did not see" the vehicle on the bridge until she closed the drawbridge.
The county terminated the bridge tender for violating policies, including visually checking the spans. She told Scripps station WPTV that her view from the bridge house was obstructed and she "just didn't see the car on the bridge."
WPTV started digging into bridge tenders after the death of 79-year-old Carol Wright on Feb. 6, when the Royal Park Bridge connecting West Palm Beach to Palm Beach opened while walking with her bicycle to try to cross it.
Attorney Lance Ivey, who represents Wright's family, said the bridge is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation and is manned by bridge tenders from a third party, Florida Drawbridges Inc.
The company didn't respond to repeated requests for comment and the Florida Department of Transportation refused to comment on the investigation.
"When the bridge tender pushed that button to lift that bridge, that was basically giving Carol a slow mental and physical death sentence," Ivey said during a recent news conference.
Ivey said Wright's family is fighting to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.
"Our goal is that will never ever, ever, ever happen to another family," he said.
This story was originally reported by Michael Buczyner and John Pacenti on wptv.com.