Drawbridge Operator Won’t Face Prison Time For Bicyclist’s Death

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43-year-old Artissua Paulk, a drawbridge operator who killed a bicyclist last year, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and won’t serve prison time. The incident occurred after Paulk raised the spans prior to ensuring that they were clear.

Paulk was sentenced to eight years probation and 200 hours of community service during Tuesday’s hearing. If she meets all of the conditions outlined in the deal, her probation could be cut to five years.

On February 6, Paulk had been operating the bridge that links West Palm Beach and Palm Beach when Carol Wright, 79, was walking her bike across the span. Prior to opening the bridge to allow a boat to pass and subsequent to lowering its entrance barriers, Paulk should have gone outside of the bridge’s tender station to ensure that no people, vehicles, or bikes were on it.

However, Wright was still on the bridge and when it opened, she plummeted close to 50 feet onto a concrete slab and lost her life. Wright, a retired newspaper editor, had been traveling back from a bookstore.

Paulk had first told police that she had checked the bridge, but camera footage and text messages she sent to her boss right after Wright fell showed that she had not.

To settle a lawsuit, Wright’s relatives were paid $8 million by Florida Drawbridges, the private company that manages the government-owned span.



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