Kilbourn bridge death: Man's family, Milwaukee police meet

The family of a Rhode Island man who fell to his death on a Milwaukee bridge Monday wants to know exactly what led up to his death.

Richard Dujardin was crossing the Kilbourn Avenue bridge Monday when it started open. He was hard of hearing and tried to grab on the bridge's side rail – but fell 71 feet. 

"Life will never be the same," said Philip Dujardin, Richard's son.

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The Dujardin siblings are holding each other tight as another day goes by without their dad.

"It does give us some comfort that he was doing something that he loved, which was going to Mass, when he died," Peter Dujardin said.


Dujardin family

Richard's children and wife met with the Milwaukee Police Department on Wednesday, Aug. 17. After the meeting, they said they feel confident that police will get to the bottom of what happened.

"We all left with a good feeling, about the detectives and investigators, we felt that they were doing a diligent job looking into the case," said Peter.

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"This is a heartbreaking story," said Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

FOX6 News asked Johnson if the Department of Public Works needs to make any changes to the drawbridge; the city's drawbridges are operated remotely.

"There have not been issues in the past, this was a freak accident and each and every one of us is remorseful," he said.

Johnson said, if changes need to be made to make the bridge safer, the city will do it. The DPW has placed its bridge operator on leave and said he is seeking counseling.


Death investigation at Kilbourn bridge in Milwaukee

Richard's children said their parents were not familiar with drawbridges because they are from Rhode Island.

"We looked at it yesterday, we wouldn’t have known either, there was no signage or anything like that," said Julianne Grew, Richard's granddaughter.

The family said if anyone has any video of what happened that day, to call police.

Drawbridge operations

The DPW said it operates 20 bridges as required by U.S. Coast Guard. Ten of those bridges are controlled by an operator who is stationed at a remote location, a practice that the DPW said has been in effect for decades. 

"Bridge houses" are responsible for controlling multiple bridges, the DPW said – only one of which is supposed to be moving at a time. The operator uses a real-time video feed to inspect each bridge before, during and after a bridge's opening. 

The DPW said the Water Street bridge house operates the Kilbourn bridge and others. The opening sequence for the Kilbourn bridge is the horns sound for marine traffic, then the bells sound for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, then lights flash and traffic gates go down – and finally the bridge opens.