HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – An elderly man’s death on a drawbridge in Hollywood is bringing big changes to the way the bridges are operated in Broward and other Florida counties.
The family of the victim, Desmond Nolan, 80, hopes the changes prevent other deaths and injuries.
In November 2009 Nolan was walking across the drawbridge at Sheridan Street over the Intracoastal Waterway. He was walking from the beach to a condo he shared with his wife.
As the bridge opened, Nolan was caught. He struggled to hang on and eventually fell about 30 feet to the pavement below.
Nolan’s family filed suit against the bridge tender and the company that operates the bridge. Attorney Jay Cohen said the family received a settlement of more than a million dollars. But more importantly for the family, the company that oversees the bridge operators agreed to a series of safety changes.
For instance, Cohen said, bridge tenders will not be allowed to have televisions or personal computers in the bridge tender buildings.
Cohen said the Nolan family is pleased with the safety changes.
“That was more important than anything else to them — to make sure that something changes with respect to the way bridges are opened so nobody else suffers such a significant loss that they have,” Cohen told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation said the company that operates the bridge — Transfield Services — also ordered bridge tenders to announce over a PA system when a bridge is closing, to drop each gate one at a time and, if possible, to walk outside and scan the area for people before raising the bridge.
“Anytime we can make bridges safer, we’re happy to do that,” said DOT Spokesperson Barbara Kelleher.
Cohen said making the bridge operator step outside the building before raising the bridge is extremely important.
“No bridge tender, at least at that Sheridan Street bridge, is allowed to raise a bridge without stepping outside of the bridge tender house and virtually canvassing the area and looking all around before that bridge is ever raised,” Cohen explained.
The DOT said the changes will affect bridges in Broward, Palm Beach and several other counties. Bridges in Miami-Dade are operated by a different company.
Cohen said if the bridge tender had only looked out his window, he certainly would have seen Nolan and would likely have prevented his death.
“The bridge tender testified under oath that he can’t explain why he didn’t see him,” Cohen said.