IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Florida drawbridge operator arrested in death of woman, 79, who fell when it opened

Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, is charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence, according to the West Palm Beach Police Department.

The bridge tender who was operating a Florida drawbridge last month when it opened, sending a 79-year-old woman to her death at least five stories below, was arrested Thursday.

Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, is charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence, according to the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Syndication: Palm Beach Post
The Royal Park Bridge was closed to all traffic as West Palm Beach police and fire rescue respond after cyclist fell and died, after striking a lower portion of the bridge structure ON Feb. 6, 2022.Meghan McCarthy / USA Today Network

Paulk was operating the Royal Park Bridge, which stretches from Lakeview Avenue in West Palm Beach and connects to the island of Palm Beach, when it opened as the 79-year-old walked her bike across.

The woman was about 10 feet away from the end of the bridge when she fell through a gap in the road, NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach, Florida, reported at the time.

“The woman tried to hang on,” West Palm Beach police spokesperson Mike Jachles told the news station.

“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,” he added.

Police said the woman's name is being withheld under Marsy’s Law, which seeks to protect victims' privacy rights.

Detectives, last month, obtained a search warrant for Paulk's cellphone, according to police. Investigators have determined that she was not on her phone at the time of the incident. She has cooperated throughout the investigation and was further questioned after her arrest Thursday.