Following a lengthy investigation, the Sturgeon Bay Police Department has found that the driver of a 42ft RV was not at fault for an incident on the Michigan Street Bridge in which a portion of the vehicle was crushed by the structure’s large cement counterweight June 23rd. Based on the investigation by Sergeant Greg Zager, it appears that the motorhome driven by 68 year-old Michael Trese of Merrit Island, Florida, got caught in “no man’s land” and could not move as the counterweight came down for a bridge opening. At the time, the span was being operated by remote control by from the Maple Street Bridge nearby. Trese, his 72 year-old wife, D. Cherney, and 2 dogs escaped without injury, but their 2009 vehicle was severely damaged.
The accident report indicates that the RV was pulling a small car in heavy traffic on the bridge. Trese said he saw flashing lights and heard bells ringing, but was already past the barricades in the westbound lane and couldn’t back up or go forward due to traffic. The driver said he decided to stay put because he wasn’t yet on the draw and figured that if the bridge-tender wanted him to move, he would be told to do so. After the traffic in front cleared and the barricades were down, the bridge opened and the large concrete counterweight came down on the front of the RV, crushing it.
A witness behind the motorhome said the vehicle was already past the light when it turned “yellow” and then “red” to get traffic to stop. The witness also noted that when the RV went past the lights, the light was “green” and the barricades had not yet lowered.
At the time of the accident, bridge-tender Rose Pipkorn was operating the Michigan Street Bridge from the Maple Street Bridge. Pipkorn has 3 decades of experience operating bridges in the city and remains on staff.