A woman who had just finished a walk to benefit breast cancer research got stuck on an opening drawbridge, horrifying the crowd below. The women, 55 year old Wanda McGowan could not see the “no trespassing” and “no pedestrians” signs posted at the front of the bridge because she is legally blind, according to her son. She decided to cross, and midway through her journey, the bridge began to open. McGowan was left dangling 22 feet in the air and clinging onto the bridge, fearful for her life. Thankfully, the incident has led to a dramatic rescue.
The crowd underneath the bridge placed frantic calls to 911 and begged the operators to instruct the bridge engineers to close the bridge immediately. They didn’t know if McGowan would be able to hang on and were terrified they would watch her plunge to her death. “We need big ladder or something like that to get her down. I don’t know how long she is going to last. She is trying to hold on, but nobody can reach her. It’s too high,” said a caller. People in the crowd were shouting and crying, certain that her strength would surely give out before she could be reached by rescuers.
“Oh my God! She’s stuck up there!” cried a bystander. Others shouted instructions to McGowan to “hang on! Hang on!” Shortly after the 911 calls were placed, firefighters rushed to the scene hauling along a 24 foot ladder. They raced up the ladder and were successful in rescuing McGowan, who was completely unscathed.
The crowd below shouted cheers of joy and clapped enthusiastically as McGowan was rescued from what could have been an icy plunge into the river below. McGowan told rescuers that she was an experienced rock climber and that she used those skills while trapped on the bridge.
The bridge operator was not able to see McGowan and didn’t even know she was on the bridge because it is operated remotely. An eye witness to the scene explained: “This bridge is controlled from Tallahassee. There’s not a bridge minder here anymore. So she’s stuck on the bridge and she’s going up. The next thing is, she’s stuck, straddled like Jesus Christ.”
Many bystanders were questioning whether McGowan could face charges, and one person said that she would likely be charged because of the copious trespassing signs which are posted all over the area. In addition, there was a very loud warning siren that went off before the bridge began to rise.
Authorities said while they were mulling over whether or not to press charges, the woman’ mental state would have to be taken into consideration. City of Fort Lauderdale spokesperson Matt Little said “We are thankful that the individual involved in this life-threatening incident survived. The decision to trespass on private property was an unfortunate, poor choice that endangered the trespasser’s life as well as the lives of the first responders. The decision to cross the clearly marked railroad bridge should not be lauded.”
It was a dramatic rescue for Wanda McGowan after she got stuck on an opening drawbridge. Witnesses are relieved the story had a happy ending, and McGowan will undoubtedly be relieved if no charges are pressed in the incident.
By: Rebecca Savastio