DANIA BEACH Wanda McGowan has been the target of some good-natured ribbing from friends since being rescued from an upright railroad drawbridge in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, her son says, but on Monday he said she's not that comfortable with all the attention.
That attention could include trespassing charges filed at the request of the Florida East Coast railroad as soon as Tuesday, officials said.
"She's not freaked out by the experience. She was saying [Sunday] how she was fine," Sean McGowan said. "She was running on adrenaline for a day or so and then everybody was saying, 'Oh my God, you're the bridge lady,' to her."
Employees at Flossie's Bar and Grill, on Ravenswood Road near McGowan's Dania Beach home, said she stopped in Sunday and was talking with the regulars there. But arriving home Monday to find reporters interviewing her son, she angrily ordered the media off her property.
Wearing their bras on the outside of their pink T-shirts to raise breast cancer awareness, McGowan, 55, was part of a group participating in Saturday morning's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K Walk that began at Huizenga Plaza, just north of the New River, her son said.
"The group she was with is called Cancer Bugs Me in honor of one of her friends who got breast cancer," Sean McGowan said. "Her friend's nickname is Bugs."
About two hours into the walk, McGowan found herself trapped on a rising railroad drawbridge. She dangled 24 feet off the ground for 15 to 20 minutes while a crowd below snapped photos with cellphones.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue received several 911 calls that sent firefighters to the Andrews Avenue and Third Avenue drawbridges before they realized Wanda McGowan was on the railroad drawbridge.
"As we came over the Andrews Avenue bridge, we looked down and there were people pointing up at the railroad bridge," said firefighter Michael Hughes. "We grabbed our 24-foot extension ladder, put it right [to] her legs, I climbed up the ladder and brought the lady down."
Fire Rescue Lt. Matthew Adams, who participated in the rescue, said Monday that going up the chain of command to FEC authorities to lower the bridge would have been too time-consuming.
"Our concern was an immediate rescue," he said. "She was in a location that was easy for us to throw a ladder [up] to access her and bring her down instead of sitting there and waiting for the bridge to come down when we had a way to rescue her."
FEC vice president and General Counsel Robert Ledoux said Monday that the railroad has the ability to put the bridge down in two minutes. "The reason we are extremely frustrated by this is that we would have people on scene with an emergency button to put the bridge down," Ledoux said.
He said railroad police were reviewing surveillance video and will decide soon whether to press charges against McGowan and perhaps one other person police think crossed the bridge ahead of her.
"I'm happy she is safe, [but] Wanda is not a folk hero on the bridge, all right?" Ledoux said. "It is very dangerous to be on a railroad bridge."
Sean McGowan says his mother is not taking this lightly.
"I think it's funny but she says, 'Sure it's funny because it didn't happen to you,'" he said.
Staff writer Ihosvani Rodriguez contributed to this story.
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— Darcy Tannebaum (@dt007) October 12, 2013