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Bridge tender arrested in death of woman who fell when it opened

▶ Watch Video: Motorcyclist crashes trying to beat rising drawbridge

The worker who was operating a Florida drawbridge when it opened last month sending a woman to her death has been arrested, authorities announced Thursday.

The West Palm Beach Police Department said detectives arrested Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, at around noon Thursday with the assistance of the U. S. Marshals Service. She was charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Authorities say Paulk was operating the Royal Park Bridge on Feb. 6 when a 79-year-old woman was walking her bicycle across the span. The bridge opened, and the woman fell after a bystander tried to pull her to safety but lost his grip, officials said at the time.

Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach Police

Police said Thursday that investigators determined that Paulk was not using her phone at the time of the incident.

The woman who died was within 10 feet of the barrier arms that halt traffic when the Royal Park Bridge started to move.

“The woman tried to hang on. 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,” West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said at the time.

The bridge was closed for more than six hours after the accident.

Authorities said the identity of the woman who died is being withheld under Marsy’s Law, which seeks to protect the privacy rights of victims.

The arrest comes just days after a motorcyclist crashed on a rising drawbridge in Daytona Beach, Florida. The man was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.



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