Posted on March 21, 2022

Bridgetender Who Raised a Drawbridge Before 79-Year-Old Grandmother Could Reach the Other Side Is Charged With Manslaughter

Alyssa Guzman and Snejana Farberov, Daily Mail, March 18, 2022

A Florida bridgetender has been charged with manslaughter after allegedly raising a drawbridge connecting Palm Beach to Florida before a 79-year-old grandmother walking her bicycle reached the other side.

West Palm Beach police arrested Artissua Lafay Paulk 43, at her home on Thursday in connection to the death of Carol Wright, 79. Her bond is set at $20,000 and a judge issued a no-contact order on Friday, according to Fox 13.

Artissua Lafay Paulk

Artissua Lafay Paulk

Carol Wright

Carol Wright

Paulk is accused of opening the Royal Park Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway on February 6 as the cyclist walked across, causing Wright to plunge 60 feet to her death.

The older woman was walking her bike from Palm Beach toward West Palm Beach around 1 p.m. and was within 10 feet of reaching the safety of the barrier arm that halts traffic when the drawbridge started to go up, police said.

A Good Samaritan, who witnessed the incident, raced to Wright’s aid and tried to pull her to safety but lost his grip. She slipped through the gap formed by the rising bridge and the main roadway and desperately tried to cling on, before plunging more than five stories to the concrete base of the 1,238-foot span over the Intercoastal Waterway.

‘The woman tried to hang on. There was a bystander nearby who tried to help her, but tragically she fell five or six stories below where she died landing on concrete,’ West Palm Beach police spokesperson Mike Jachles said.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) said in its report released Thursday that Paulk said she checked multiple times and did not see Wright before opening the span that afternoon.

Before raising the drawbridge, the tender is required to get multiple visual confirmations that the span is empty of cars and pedestrians, which the employee claimed she did.

The FDOT report said Paulk told investigators that she walked out on the balcony before and after turning on the red lights and lowering gates to stop traffic, made two announcements on loudspeakers, and ultimately stepped outside three times to make sure no one was on the bridge, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Surveillance video will show that this account is false, according to attorney Lance C. Ivey, who is representing the dead woman’s family. {snip}


The police statement said investigators searched the bridgetender’s cellphone and determined she had not been using it at the time.

Later, however, she reportedly texted a friend: ‘I’m here with the police I killed a lady on the bridge.’ And she also reportedly told her supervisor – who also happens to be her mother-in-law – that she lied to the police before deleting the messages, Fox 13 reported.