Live

Watch CBSN Live

Drawbridge rises with couple’s car still on it

CAPE MAY COUNTY, N.J. – Members of a New Jersey family say they're lucky to be alive after a terrifying incident while crossing the Middle Thorofare Bridge, which connects Wildwood and Cape May.

CBS Philadelphia reports it happened on Aug. 1, when the Naphys family was heading to Cape May to shop and eat.

When the bridge started to open, driver Terrance Naphys says he barely had time to think, so he gunned the engine and cleared the opening.

"My wife said, 'I think the bridge is opening,"' said Terrence recalled.

"He accelerated, and of course then we landed with a big impact on the concrete on the other side," said Jackie Naphys.

According to New Jersey State Police, Naphys had just finished paying the toll when they continued toward the top of the bridge.

But that's when, police say, an employee of the bridge commission flipped a switch to activate the flashing red lights and flashing rails on the bridge.

With the Naphys family on the steel grate, police say, the bridge began rising approximately 3 to 6 feet in the air, due to a large vessel trying to cross underneath.

"I'm thankful we're still here because I think if we went in the water or stayed on the bridge, we wouldn't still be here, or we'd be seriously, seriously injured," said Terrence Naphys.

"An employee for the Cape May County Bridge Commission stated that a large vessel was approaching the bridge and they had no contact with that vessel due to their radio being down," state police said in their report.

The report indicates that one bridge employee, who was in control of raising and lowering the steel grate, may have been dealing with sun glare.

"[The employee] advised me that he anticipated all vehicles being clear, and all rails being down, but wasn't sure due to a strong sun glare," the police report said.

Authorities have pinned the blame on the Cape May County Bridge Commission for not being aware of the surroundings and by raising the steel grate while vehicles were between the flashing red rails.

There was minor damage to the front under carriage of the Naphys' vehicle.

There was no damage to the bridge.

In a statement sent to CBS Philadelphia, the Cape May County Bridge Commission says it is are also investigating the incident.

"The Cape May County Bridge Commission and the County of Cape May are currently conducting an investigation into the situation that occurred on August 1st at the Middle Thorofare Bridge. We take the safety of the traveling public very seriously and systems are in place to prevent incidents like the one that has been reported from occurring. Once the results of our investigation are complete we will take any and all necessary action to insure the continued safety of our customers."

But the Naphys say no one from the bridge commission has reached out to them.

"Not anyone from the bridge commission. No one. Not a soul from the bridge commission," said Terrence. "Basically, we would like to see something happen. People cross that all the time. We won't again, but a lot of people do."

View CBS News In