West Palm Beach police have arrested 43 year old bridgetender Artissua Lafay Paulk on one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence stemming from the death of 79 year old Carol Wright who fell from the Royal Park Bridge last month when it opened as she tried to cross.
Wright was pushing her bicycle across the bridge that connects West Palm to Palm Beach just before 1 p.m. on Feb. 6th when it began to go up.
Unable to get to safety, she held onto the span for as long as she could before falling almost 60 feet to her death
In a newly released report, the Paulk tells her side of the story.
Paulk says she received a call from a boat at 12:50 p.m. that Sunday requesting to pass through the bridge at 1:00 p.m.
She says she then began the protocol for opening the bridge:
“I walked out on balcony to see [the] roadway for people walking,” Paulk wrote. “I went back in, turn my lights to red I then walked back out on balcony to see that all cars had stopped and no one was on bridge.”
She then says she saw a man running on the bridge and made an announcement over the roadside speakers that the bridge was going to open:
“I got all gates down I walked out on balcony to look to see that I had no one on the bridge; no one was on bridge,” she stated.
Paulk says she then made a second announcement that she was opening the bridge and then did so.
According to the report, once the the boat cleared the bridge, she then made another announcement that she was lowering the bridge.
Once the bridge was lowered, she said a man came up to the booth and began banging on the door. He then told her that a woman had fallen off of the bridge.
Paulk says she called her supervisor and then the police.
While the family of the woman have retained a lawyer and plan on suing the worker for not following protocol, no charges have been brought against the employee at this time.
Paulk, a resident of Greenacres, was taken into custody by West Palm Beach police Thursday with assistance from the U.S. Marshall Service.
If convicted, she could face as much as 15 years in prison.