A New Jersey family on a car trip had a movie-worthy narrow escape when a drawbridge opened underneath them and the driver was forced to jump the gap to stay out of the water below.
Terence Naphys was driving his family SUV across a toll bridge to Cape May, New Jersey, when his wife noticed that the bridge below them was separating to allow passage of a boat underneath, per WNBC. Once Terence noticed, he hit the gas and jumped the car across the widening gap to safety.
"It's scary what's going through your mind," Terence said. "We could have all landed in the water." The water was 65 feet below the bridge.
The toll booth operator said he was blinded by the sun and did not accurately determine how far the family's Toyota RAV4 had traveled before signaling the bridge. He thought the car was farther ahead and began opening the bridge for a commercial fishing vessel to pass through.
Terence was traveling with his wife Jacquelyn, their 16-year-old daughter and her friend. All four of them were unharmed after the stunt, but the SUV sustained roughly $10,000 in damages, according to the Courier-Post.
Even with the damage to the car's undercarriage and bumper, it remained drivable, allowing the group to escape the bridge without further incident. All four of them were taken to a local hospital for examination but were released without serious treatment.
"To me, in this day and age it’s almost ridiculous that you’re depending on a human being to look out a window, rather than using technology," Jacquelyn said of the drawbridge operator.
A bystander driving in front of the family witnessed the entire ordeal, later stating that the family's vehicle was between 4 and 6 feet off the ground. Another driver stopped on the bridge and began screaming, believing the family had plunged into the water.
"I wasn’t nervous until we landed," Jacquelyn remembers. "That’s when we realized the bridge wasn’t just a little bit open ... I’m kind of glad we didn’t know.”
Investigators determined the incident was an error by the drawbridge operator and are continuing their study of what went wrong. The operator noted that he could not radio the fishing boat in time to request it to stop, according to WNBC.
The bridge was built in 1940 and has needed more than $200 million in repairs and restorations in the years since.
The family said they were not sure when, if ever, they would travel across a drawbridge again.