A family heading to Cape May, New Jersey, found themselves in an improbable situation earlier this month when a drawbridge lifted right underneath their car and they were forced to jump the opening.
Terence Naphys, after paying the $1.50 toll at the Middle Thorofare Bridge that connects the Wildwoods and Cape May via Ocean Drive, was heading across the bridge when a steel metal grate suddenly lifted 3 to 6 feet underneath his car, Naphys told Lower Township police.
Naphys was in the car with his wife, his daughter and his daughter's friend, and he was worried his Toyota RAV4 would fall the 65 feet down into the water. So he accelerated and jumped the gap.
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"It's scary what's going through your mind," said the New Jersey resident. "We could have all landed in the water."
The car landed on the other side of the bridge and the family was able to drive away without any injuries. But Naphys said his SUV sustained $10,000 in damage that included a bent suspension.
A commercial fishing vessel was trying to pass under the bridge, and its radio communication was down, officials said. The bridge operator could not contact the large boat.
The operator later told police he was blinded by a sun glare when he checked the bridge for cars, expecting Naphys' vehicle to clear in time.
The bridge was built in 1940 and needs as much as $200 million in repairs and renovations, according to Cape May County officials.
Investigators said the incident was an operator error and is under investigation by the Cape May County Bridge Commission.
Naphys isn't sure when he'll have the courage to cross a bridge again.
"I will never ever drive that bridge or probably any drawbridge again," he said.