Many of us walk or drive across them every day. In tonight’s 7 Investigates, Kevin Ozebek takes a look at the growing concerns over South Florida’s drawbridges.

It happened in the blink of an eye. St. Patrick’s Day 2021, cyclist Fred Medina fell to his death after he tried to get across the South Miami Avenue Bridge as it was opening.

Police say he went around the gate as the bridge was going up.

Arman Medina, Fred’s son: “It’s been hard. There isn’t a day that we don’t talk about him. I miss my dad. I just wish I had him back.”

Then another death in Palm Beach County this past February.

Seventy-nine-year-old Carol Wright died when the Royal Park Drawbridge went up as she was crossing. The bridge tender on duty that day was later arrested, charged with manslaughter.

A lawsuit was filed by the victim’s family in March.

Lance Ivey, family attorney: “The overwhelming complaint was lack of training, the lack of education, the lack of safety.”

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, there were more than a dozen bridge incidents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties last year alone.

A 2021 report describes a tender opening Miami’s Brickell Bridge while a pedestrian in a wheelchair was on it. The report says he “… held on to keep from falling …” and that tender was later “terminated.”

Whether it’s mechanical issues, mistakes made by bridge tenders or daring drivers, cyclists or pedestrians, accidents have been happening for decades.

Senator Shevrin Jones, Committee on Transportation: “Let’s fix it. Let’s fix it. We have to, we have to fix this now.”

State Senator Shevrin Jones is a member of the state’s committee on transportation. He wants to upgrade safety measures on all of Florida’s drawbridges.

Senator Jones: “Listen, we’re in 2022. Technology has advanced, so we should be able to to put something in place that when you see a pedestrian on the bridge, that it won’t rise.”

The Florida Department of Transportation operates many of the state’s bridges including this bridge on Fifth Street in Downtown Miami. Here the state is testing new technology that includes thermal imaging to help tenders better spot people crossing this bridge.

Senator Jones: “If it works, implement them in all these state drawbridges. That is something that I’m willing to support if it ever came to the transportation committee.”

Miami-Dade County drawbridges now have bicycle plates like these to keep riders from slipping, and county bridges currently in the design, and the construction phase will implement additional mitigation features to minimize blind spots from the bridge tender house.

Arman Medina: “I wished for other people to see, you know, the major concern there are on bridges and the need for safety so that this could never happen to another father or mother, son or daughter.”

For those who’ve lost loved ones on Florida’s bridges, the safety upgrades can’t come fast enough.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.


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