Father of 2 dies after GPS led him to washed-away bridge, family says

A man is dead after faulty GPS coordinates may have led him to drive his Jeep off a North Carolina bridge that had washed away in 2013. There was no signage or barricade on the bridge to alert drivers of its decrepit state.

His family has called the incident an “avoidable tragedy.”

On Sept. 30, Phil Paxson, 47, was driving home from his daughter’s ninth birthday party before he drove off the bridge in Catawba County, N.C. Paxson’s mother-in-law claimed incorrect GPS co-ordinates led the father of two to the bridge on a “dark and rainy night.”

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“He was following his GPS which led him down a concrete road to a bridge that dropped off into a river,” wrote Paxson’s mother-in-law, Linda McPhee Koenig. “The bridge had been destroyed 9 years ago and never repaired.”

Paxson’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator was found upside-down and partially submerged in the water the following day under the collapsed bridge, NBC affiliate WCNC reported. Paxson’s wife said she and their two daughters left the birthday party earlier, while Paxson stayed behind to help clean up. He did not come home that night.

The outlet reported that troopers claimed there had been barricades and signage on the bridge, but they were apparently removed.

It is currently unclear who is responsible for the road with the washed-away bridge.

Queen City News reported that the North Carolina Highway Patrol said the road is not state or locally owned. The company that developed the road dissolved several years ago.

A local property management company is in talks with a legal team to determine if their previous owner, who was the initial developer, may be responsible.

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A GoFundMe page was established to help the Paxson family pay for the unexpected funeral costs. As of this writing, nearly US$26,000 has been donated.

“Seems like minimal action could have saved his life,” Paxson’s wife, Alicia Paxson, told local news station WSOC-TV. “Nobody wanted to take responsibility. I don’t understand how over nine years this could be like this.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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