WEST PALM BEACH — The death of Carol Easterling Wright, the woman who fell from the Royal Park Bridge on Feb. 6, was preventable, an attorney for her family said Monday.
The bridge tender should have seen Wright, 79, as she walked from Palm Beach toward downtown West Palm Beach at about 1 p.m. that day, said Lance C. Ivey, the family’s attorney.
The safety protocol is for bridge tenders to check the three camera monitors inside the lookout tower, Ivey said at a news conference by the West Palm Beach base of the bridge, at Okeechobee Boulevard and Flagler Drive.
Tenders also use mirrors to check for pedestrians and are required to walk around the balcony of the tower before raising the bridge, he said.
The bridge tender also could have hit an emergency stop button to prevent the bridge from going up, Ivey said.
Wright tried to hold on to a railing, then lost her grip and fell about 50 to 60 feet to her death, city police have said. A man with a skateboard who was on the fixed part of the span, just several feet away, tried to grab her, but couldn’t hold on. West Palm Beach police have not identified him.
“Carol was legally there to be seen,” Ivey told reporters while seated next to Jill Sanchez, Wright’s niece.
Child abuse case:Lawyer for parents accused of abuse says Jupiter police ignored evidence of child’s behavior
Train wreck:One person dead after Brightline strikes car in Lake Worth Beach
Life sentence:Man gets life for murder of another man outside Belle Glade nightclub in 2020
Ivey said he is waiting on more information to come out before deciding whether to file a lawsuit but said he believes the bridge tender was negligent.
“What did they do right?” Ivey asked of Florida Drawbridges Inc., who employ the bridge tenders. The tender on duty that day has not been publicly identified. “They didn’t do the bare minimum.”
Florida Drawbridges operates the Royal Park Bridge for its owner, the Florida Department of Transportation. It has declined to comment during the investigation. City police described the bridge tender as “distraught” when officers and rescue workers were on the scene Feb. 6
Wright was a retired journalist who at one point was the business editor of the Palm Beach Daily News. After leaving the Daily News, she was the spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.
In a January email to a former colleague Wright mentioned she had recovered from health issues she had suffered in 2021 and had started biking again.
“I feel good, strong and am even back to my daily bike riding,” she wrote.
The West Palm Beach police investigation into her death remains open, and DOT said it is “actively” working with law-enforcement agencies looking into the incident.
The bridge, which spans about one-third of a mile and links Palm Beach with downtown West Palm Beach, remained closed for six hours while police investigated Wright’s death.
West Palm Beach Fire Rescue’s Technical Rescue Team performed a high-angle operation, using ropes and harnesses, to lower firefighters to reach the victim, who had landed on a concrete surface where the mechanical components of the drawbridge are located.
Wright was riding her bicycle home from the Classic Book Shop on Palm Beach to her home just south of Belvedere Road, Ivey said. She made the 6-mile round trip frequently, he said.
David Rogers, a former copy editor and staff writer at the Palm Beach Daily News, said Wright loved her job at the paper.
“She could come across as gruff, but she had a good heart and was a faithful friend. The way she died is beyond tragic. I am so sad that her life ended this way and my heart goes out to her family and other friends.”
In a statement, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks said Wright was the department’s public information officer from 2003 to 2016.
“I worked closely with her. She was smart, professional and had a great sense of humor. We were lucky to have her on our staff – her background in the news media and her exceptional writing skills were important to our office,” Jacks said.