- The gap in the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge through which Officer Mike Partin fell goes unnoticed every day by people crossing on foot and in cars.
Officer Partin's fall Sunday is the second such incident on the bridge in five months. Although it may surprise some, suspending sidewalks from the side of a bridge is accepted practice, a state engineer said Monday.
''There's always going to be areas on a bridge structure that could be dangerous or hazardous,'' said Rob Hans, bridge engineer for the state transportation cabinet's Northern Kentucky district.
Jumping the nearly 3-foot gap means risking a 92-foot fall into the Ohio River when it's at normal depth. The handrail is 8 inches taller than the concrete wall.
Officer Partin was trying to jump the gap after parking his cruiser on the bridge to assist a Kenton County officer in an arrest on the walkway.
For police, it's an unavoidable risk in emergencies when time matters, said Lt. Col. Bill Dorsey, Covington's assistant chief. Though the gap may not make sense to a casual observer, it serves several purposes, Mr. Hans said.
It provides space for the bridge's steel support beams - 2 feet, 2 inches wide - to connect with concrete piers. The space also allows inspectors access to view the underside up close.
City officials said they'll wait until Officer Partin's body is found to discuss whether improvements should be made to the bridge.
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