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Tourist dies in fall from Milwaukee drawbridge

MILWAUKEE — A Rhode Island man crossing a drawbridge with his wife was killed when the bridge was raised, causing him to fall.

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The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner identified the victim as Richard Dujardin of Providence, Rhode Island, The Associated Press reported.

Dujardin was visiting Milwaukee and walking across the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge downtown Monday when it was raised. He grabbed onto a side rail but lost his grip and fell approximately 70 feet to pavement below, the AP reported.

Dujardin had been in the middle of the bridge when it was opened, and was looking at an iPad while he walked, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Dujardin’s wife, who had been walking with him, had already safely made it to the other side before the bridge opened, according to the newspaper.

Dujardin was also described as being “hard of hearing” in the medical examiner’s report, which may have caused him not to notice the bells and alarms as the bridge began to open, WTMJ reported.

“Still surreal, we’re in shock still, I think,” Julianne Grew, Dujardin’s daughter, told WISN.

The Kilbourn Avenue Bridge is controlled by Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works and is operated remotely by a person who has two camera views of the bridge, the AP reported. Interim Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Krusche told the AP that the employee who operated the bridge has been in the job for four years and has conducted hundreds of bridge openings. The employee was placed on leave.

According to the medical examiner’s report, the operator is supposed to check two camera views before opening the bridge, but whether that was done is not specified, WISN reported.

Dujardin had been a religion writer for the Providence Journal for 47 years, covering the naming of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as each ascended to the papacy. The newspaper remembered him, saying, he had “the ability to listen deeply … and always generously captured his subjects.” Dujardin was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Religion Newswriters Association in 2015.

“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,” Grew told WTMJ. “He was very proud of that moment.”

Dujardin and his wife, Rose-Marie, had six children together and had been married for 54 years, WTMJ reported.

Dujardin’s family told WTMJ that they are looking for witnesses who may have footage of what happened on the bridge. Milwaukee police told the station that they do not suspect any criminal act at this point, but that they are continuing their investigation.

Approximately half of the 20 movable bridges in Milwaukee are operated remotely, the Department of Public Works told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

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