A Florida drawbridge tender lied to detectives about the incident where she raised the drawbridge to Palm Beach, killing a 79-year older woman crossing Royal Park Bridge. The operator is now charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence, says police, WPBF reports.
The accident occurred on February 6, when Artissua Lafay Paulk, 43, opened the bridge as Carol Wright was walking across with her bicycle. A good Samaritan tried to save her before she fell to her death, ABC News reports.
The bridgetender told the Florida Department of Transportation that she checked the area by walking out on the balcony several times, made two announcements, and went out three more times to confirm the bridge was clear, said FDOT in its report released Thursday, according to the Palm Beach Post.
However, surveillance video does not support Paulk’s account, I believe that when we get the video evidence of this incident, it will reveal unequivocally that the bridge tender’s statement doesn’t align with the true facts,” said attorney Lance C. Ivey, who is representing the deceased woman’s family, WPTV reports.
Court documents back up Ivey’s assertions. They show that Paulk lied to police when she made her statement and plotted with her supervisor what to say during a now-deleted text message exchange, according to ABC News.
The text messages read as follows:
3:20 p.m. from supervisor: “When they talk to you make (expletive) sure you tell them you walked outside on balcony 3 diff times to make sure no one was past gates n delete this msg after one time to make sure card (sic) stop 2nd time after gates lowered and 3rd time before you raised spans (sic) ok now delete this I know ur upset but u gotta tell them step by step how u do opening”
3:21 p.m. to supervisor: “I did”
3:59 p.m. from supervisor: “You have to write out step by step what you did ok up till time you were told someone fell”
“Did she walk on the balcony and not look –I don’t know but I think the facts are going to reveal that she did not even walk out on the balcony one time or three times or not at all,” said Ivey.
Ivey said this tragic event should never have occurred, “The bridge tender didn’t do the bare minimum,” he said. “They pinned her in there. There’s nothing she could do…. Our goal is this will never, ever, ever happen to another family.”