‘I killed a lady on the bridge’: Text messages released after bridge tender’s arrest

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A bridge tender arrested Thursday in connection with the death of a woman who fell when the drawbridge opened is now accused of lying to police after text messages revealed she was instructed on what to say to investigators.

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In February, Carol Wright, 79, was walking her bike across a bridge that connects West Palm Beach to the Town of Palm Beach when the bridge began to go up. A witness tried to help her, and Wright tried to hold on, but she eventually fell five or six stories to her death.

On Thursday, West Palm Beach police arrested Artissua Lafay Paulk, who was the bridge tender at the time of the accident, WPBF reported. Court documents obtained by the station indicate Paulk worked for Florida Drawbridge, Inc. for over a year, and had been assigned to the Royal Park Bridge for two months prior to the Feb. 6 incident.

Police told WPTV their investigation showed Paulk lied to them when she had said she went outside to visually inspect for cars and pedestrians before raising the bridge. Police said text messages also show Paulk’s supervisor encouraged her to lie.

“When they talk to you, make dam sure you tell them you walked outside the balcony 3 diff times to make sure no one was past gates n delete this msg,” was one text Paulk’s supervisor sent her on Feb. 6, WPTV reported.

Investigators said Paulk told them she checked the area at least three times before raising the bridge, and that she had raised the bridge five times throughout the day. But surveillance video showed the bridge was raised six times, while the bridge log only showed four, meaning there were instances the bridge was raised, but not logged, WPEC reported.

According to WPTV, police paperwork also shows Paulk texted someone, “I’m here with police I killed a lady on the bridge.”

Police told WPEC they did determine that the bridge tender was not speaking on her cellphone at the time of the accident, and there were no drugs detected in her system.

Wright’s family has said they plan to file a civil lawsuit.