Florida Bridgetender Charged With Manslaughter in Death of Carol Wright, Woman Who Fell When Bridge Opened

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The Florida bridgetender who was operating a drawbridge that opened while a 79-year-old woman was trying to make her way across, dropping her to her death, has been charged in connection with the incident. 

Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, was arrested and charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence, the West Palm Beach Police Department said. 

Carol Wright was walking with her bike across the Royal Park Bridge, a route she often took from her home in West Palm Beach to her favorite bookstore in Palm Beach, when the bridge opened. Wright, who was halfway across at the time, could not get off and fell to her death.  

In a handwritten incident report, the bridgetender wrote “someone was banging on [the] door. [A] guy said a lady fell in the water.”  

Police said Paulk told them she performed the proper safety checks before raising the bridge, including making two warning announcements over the speakers. She also said that she saw no one on the bridge after doing a check. Police said Paulk did not have drugs or alcohol in her system and that she was not on her cellphone at the time of the incident.

Lance Ivey, an attorney for Wright’s family, said Wright tried to hang on “for dear life” before her death. 

“She’s literally hanging on for dear life,” he said. “Clinging with her 79-year-old arms for several minutes. She gave it a valiant effort; unfortunately, her arms gave out.” 

Inside Edition found that a loud bell warns pedestrians to get off the bridge and 60 seconds later, the barriers of the bridge go down, stopping all traffic. Then, at two minutes, the bridge opens.  

“I guarantee you she was trying valiantly to get off this bridge, tried valiantly to save her life,” Ivey said.  

Wright leaves behind a niece.  

“I would have panicked, who wouldn’t have?” her niece, Jill Sanchez, said. “At 79 years old, we like to think your senses are sharp, who knows what you would do in that situation.”