77-year-old man falls to his death when drawbridge begins to rise, Wisconsin police say

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A 77-year-old retiree was on vacation when he died falling from a Milwaukee drawbridge that began to rise, according to Wisconsin news reports.

Milwaukee police officers were called to the Kilbourn bascule bridge shortly after 12 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15. They reported the Providence, Rhode Island, man was walking across the bridge before it started to open.

As Richard Dujardin was halfway across the bridge, he gripped onto the railings, where he hung on for about two minutes, according to a Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s report obtained by WISN. But he lost his grip, plunging about 70 feet to his death.

Dujardin and his wife, Rose-Marie, had been sightseeing as they walked to visit Old Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, WISN reported. She made it across the bridge safely.

“The lights, bells, and arms came down at each end of the bridge, however Richard was hard of hearing and it is thought that he didn’t notice them,” the medical examiner’s report says, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He was looking at an iPad as he strolled across the bridge.

“Our faith has been something that’s been holding us strong right now,” Dujardin’s son Philip told WISN. “We’re still seeking answers.”

In a statement to McClatchy News, the city’s Department of Public Works said the fatal incident is under investigation.

“Our employee during the time of the incident was fully trained and in his fourth year as a bridge operator having conducted hundreds of bridge openings,” interim commissioner Jerrel Kruschke said in the statement. “He is currently on leave following this incident and was connected with the City’s Employee Assistance Program for counseling.”

The bridge operator uses video monitoring to remotely lift the bridge, according to the city.

Authorities do not believe a criminal act led to Dujardin’s death, according to WTMJ, but the Dujardin family asks anyone with video footage of the incident to send it to police.

Dujardin and his wife were married for 54 years and had six children, according to The Providence Journal. He spent 47 years working for the newspaper, where he covered religion. He was a devout Catholic, but the Journal says he wrote thousands of articles while covering all religions.

“One of his favorite moments in life was meeting Pope John Paul II in person and giving him cards that my siblings had made for him,” daughter Julianne Grew told WTMJ. “He was very proud of that moment.”

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