Photo Credit: TN
Female Bridge Tender Charged In Senior Citizen's Deadly Fall From West Palm Beach Bridge
With the arrest of a Florida drawbridge tender, comes new details on the incident that ended with the death of a West Palm Beach woman, Carole Wright. West Palm Beach police stated to WPBF that the bridge tender, Artissua Lafay Paulk, from Greenacres, Florida has been arrested on one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence.
A statement from police say Wright was just 10 feet away from the end of the bridge when she fell into a gap, between the road and the end of the bridge. Wright dangled from the bridge and struggled to hold on. A passerby saw her and immediately tried to help, but could not reach the woman. Wright fell 50 to 60 feet, landing on the bridge’s mechanical mechanisms.
There is a safety procedure for preparing to open a bridge. Mirrors and cameras are in place that are each monitored. Traffic lights are turned red. Crossing arms come down over the street. Finally, the bridgetender comes out onto the balcony of the lookout tower to visually check for pedestrians before opening.
Paulk originally told police that she followed the protocol as she usually did during that opening, including coming out of the tower 3 times to visually inspect the bridge for people walking. Court documents state that Paulk told police that a ship requested passage about 1 p.m. She stated that she halted traffic, then went out to the balcony to be sure all traffic was stopped and that there was no one walking on the bridge.
However, cameras have now shown that she did not come out of her tower for hours before the victim’s fall. The last time cameras saw her come out was 4 hours before the deadly 1 o’clock opening.
Court documents state, “reckless disregard of human life and the safety of a person… who was exposed to its dangerous effects, which resulted in Carol Wright’s death.”
Wright was a part of the West Palm Beach community for years. She was the business editor for the city’s newspaper and a spokesperson for the appraiser’s office. After recovering from some health issues last year, she was reportedly feeling well enough to bike again, according to Palm Beach Post.
After receiving a search warrant for Paulk’s cell phone, deleted conversations were recovered between Paulk and her supervisor, where the two messaged about the safety protocols. According to WBPF, at the end of the message, Pulk’s supervisor warns Paulk to, “delete this” message exchange.
Paulk sent another text during the incident to another person saying, “I’m here with the police. I killed a lady on the bridge.”
Bond for Paulk has been set at $20,000 and Paulk has been warned by the judge presiding over the case not to contact any witness or the victim’s family.