Stillwater Lift Bridge operator stranded in air for more than 8 hours

- Motorists were delayed, and onlookers were amused. But for more than eight hours, one man—the bridge operator—was stranded in the air while the Stillwater Lift Bridge was stuck Tuesday. 

Mike Schmidt, the bridge operator and a 36-year MnDOT veteran, stayed in good spirits while crews tried to restore power to the bridge after a problem with the “electrical meter socket.” The problem caused the bridge to remain stuck in the “up” position shortly after noon.

“Well, it’s been a pretty slow day, as you can imagine,” Schmidt told Fox 9 while still stranded. “It’s beautiful up here. It’s about 75 degrees or something like that, with a nice wind out of the south. It is nice.”

Schmidt said he kept busy by “working the daylights out of” Yahtzee and reading the paper. Yes, he had food and drinks. No, there was no bathroom.

“Your bladder will start to feel it after a while," he said. 

Schmidt started his shift at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. He was moving the bridge down at noon when it experienced problems. “I got half way down and everything went dark. There was no power whatsoever.”

He called his wife when he realized he wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

“Nothing much you can do about it," he said. 

Crews used a bucket truck to free Schmidt after more than eight hours after he was stuck. The bridge required additional repairs that will likely last until 3 a.m. on Wednesday.

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