NC man dies after GPS sends him to bridge that was washed away in 2013

HICKORY, N.C. — A North Carolina man died last week when his GPS guided him to a bridge that had been washed out nine years ago, his family said.

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Philip John Paxson, 47, of Hickory, died Sept. 30 as he was returning home after his daughter’s ninth birthday party, WSOC-TV reported.

According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Paxson drove off a collapsed bridge near Hickory at about 11 p.m. EDT, the Hickory Daily Record reported. The bridge has been closed since 2013 after it collapsed when a culvert washed away, according to the newspaper.

Family members told WSOC that Paxson had no idea about the washed-out road. His wife, Alicia Paxson, told the Daily Record that the couple’s daughters, Juliet, 6, and Amelia, 9, rode to the party with Philip Paxson. The girls rode home with her.

When she woke up on Oct. 1 her husband was not home, Alicia Paxson told WSOC.

Jon Hopson, a family friend, found Philip Paxson’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator overturned in a creek later that morning, the Daily Record reported.

“It’s tragic. I’m very sad and mad,” Hopson told the newspaper. “We’ve been fighting this battle since this bridge washed out. Nobody wants to take responsibility for fixing it or barricading it.”

Troopers said the road is not maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and it is not within Hickory’s city limits, WSOC reported. There were no barriers warning drivers that the bridge was washed out, according to the television station.

“Somebody should have put up some kind of barrier or barricades in this area,” highway patrol spokesperson Sgt. Brian Black told the television station. “The developer, this is private property. It is not state-maintained.”

Troopers added that previous barricades had been vandalized and removed.

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

According to his obituary, Philip Paxson “had a lifelong affection for muscle cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes, boats, really anything with a motor.”

“He traveled the world with his father-in-law, riding motorcycles.”

Paxson was a health system manager for applied medical specializing in medical device sales, according to his obituary. After serving in the Navy, he graduated from The University of South Florida with a degree in marketing in 2001.

Officials with the highway patrol said they have contacted the North Carolina Department of Transportation to place barriers near where the bridge is washed out.

A GoFundMe campaign for Philip Paxson’s funeral services has raised more than half of its $50,000 goal.