NewsPalm Beach CountyRegion C Palm Beach CountyWest Palm Beach


West Palm Beach bridge tender, supervisor fired after deadly drawbridge incident

Artissua Lafay Paulk, Kathy Harper terminated by Florida Drawbridges, Inc.
Posted at 1:31 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 17:36:07-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The company that employed a bridge tender and her supervisor said Tuesday both women have been fired from their jobs following the death of a 79-year-old woman in February.

Florida Drawbridges, Inc. said in a written statement that they have terminated Artissua Lafay Paulk, 43, of Greenacres for violation of company safe operating procedures.

Paulk was arrested last week and faces a charge of one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence in the death of Carol Wright.

The company said that Paulk's supervisor, Kathy Harper, was also fired for violating the company's code of ethics and document retention policy.

Photo of Carol Wright, who fell to her death off Royal Park Bridge in West Park Beach
A poster board shows an enlarged photograph of Carol Wright, 79, who fell to her death off the Royal Park Bridge in West Park Beach on Feb. 6, 2022.

Harper, who is also Paulk's mother-in-law, has not been arrested.

A probable cause affidavit obtained by WPTV showed that Harper told Paulk to tell police that she checked the Royal Park Bridge before raising it.

The two women sent a series of text messages after Wright fell to her death.

In one of the messages, the police report showed that Harper instructed Paulk to lie to investigators about checking the bridge house balcony for pedestrians.

Florida Drawbridges, Inc. said based on the arrest and affidavit they decided to fire both women.

West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said last week that video evidence did not support Paulk's statements.

"There are a number of different camera angles from different sources that were taken into account for evidence and reviewed to corroborate the witnesses' statements," Jachles said.

The attorney for Wright's family called the incident a conspiracy between both the bridge tender and her mother-in-law/supervisor.