Dad of 2 dies after GPS directs him to washed-away bridge, North Carolina family says

Screengrab from Phil Paxson's Facebook page.

A father of two is dead after his GPS directed him to a bridge that washed away in 2013 in North Carolina, his family says.

Phil Paxson, 47, was driving home from his daughter’s ninth birthday celebration the night of Friday, Sept. 30, his mother-in-law wrote in a Facebook post. It was a rainy night, and Paxson’s GPS routed him to a bridge that didn’t exist. That’s when his Jeep went over a concrete road, plunging into water.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator was found overturned and partially submerged around 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, according to a news release from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Troopers believe the crash occurred around 11 p.m. Friday.

The bridge, located at 24th Street Place NE in Hickory, washed away in July 2013 due to flooding, the Hickory Daily Record reported.

Typically, barricades are in place to prevent drivers from crossing the bridge, troopers said. The barricades were removed after being vandalized and were missing at the time of Paxson’s wreck.

Investigators say they determined that the roadway is not owned or managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

In 2014, neighbors considered legal action after the bridge was not repaired, WSOC-TV reported. The developer was considered responsible for the private roadway at the time.

Since then, that development company has been dissolved, according to Queen City News. A local property management company says the original developer is its predecessor. It is meeting with attorneys to determine who is responsible for the road.

Paxson’s family and friends want answers and are demanding that someone take responsibility.

“This was a preventable, senseless and tragic death,” a friend wrote on Facebook.

“This was a known hazard,” Paxson’s wife wrote in a Facebook post. “Just an accident waiting to happen. Phil had to lose his life to bring awareness.”

Hickory is about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte.

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