Drawbridge suddenly opens as car full of people begins to cross

A father on vacation with his family found himself on a drawbridge that started to rise with the family still on it. He was forced to act quickly, making the decision to jump the bridge opening in the Toyota Rav4 the family was in, as Daily Mail reported.

There were four people in the car at the time, Terence Naphys, his wife Jacquelyn, their 16-year-old daughter and a friend of the same age. Jacquelyn Naphys was first to sense the danger while the family tried to cross the Middle Thorofare Bridge in New Jersey. “I think … I think the bridge might be opening,” she recalls saying at the time. After she let her father know, he immediately hit the gas pedal, sending the car flying.

There wasn’t much time to think at that point. “I don’t why, I don’t know what made me do it, I don’t know how it went to my brain to my foot, but it just did. It was an immediate reaction,” said Terence Naphys to NBC 4.

The car flew four to six feet in the air. Fortunately it cleared the water, but landed hard, causing $10,000 worth of damage, including a bent suspension from the impact of the drop. “I wasn’t nervous until we landed,” said Jacquelyn Naphys to NBC 4. “That’s when we realized the bridge wasn’t just a little bit open.”

A car behind the Naphys could only see them fly off the bridge, thinking they must have hit the water underneath as the bridge lifted. It is a 65-foot drop to the water.

The bridge operator started to open the bridge to let a fishing vessel pass. He said he couldn’t see clearly the Rav4 driving near the edge because of the sun in his eyes. He thought the car would have enough time to clear the bridge. It was sunset at the time. The fact that the vessel’s radio communication was not working at the time didn’t help the situation.

The bridge was built in 1940 and is in need of up to $200 million in repairs and renovation.

Although the family was able to drive away from the scene, they are still being evaluated for injuries. They were headed to Cape May, New Jersey at the time, crossing from the Wildwood Crest side of the bridge, as the Courier-Post reported. The Cape May County Bridge Commission is investigating the cause of the incident. Terence Naphys said he will never cross that particular drawbridge, nor any drawbridge ever again.

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