What should have been a day filled with happiness ended in tragedy as a North Carolina man driving home from his daughter’s birthday party died after driving off a bridge that had been washed away nearly a decade earlier. Now his widow and his family are working to call attention to their unimaginable loss they say could have been avoided had the bridge been properly maintained or if there had been steps taken to prevent drivers from heading toward the bridge.
Phil Paxson had stayed behind to help his friends clean up after they hosted a party to celebrate his and his wife Alycia’s oldest daughter’s ninth birthday. Alycia left with their two daughters separately.
“I remember saying goodbye, love you, see you in a bit,” Alycia told Inside Edition.
It was a stormy night and Paxson only had a short drive to the house he had recently moved into in suburban Charlotte. He was still unfamiliar with the roads, so his family says he did what many of us do: he followed GPS.
Paxson drove about four minutes and his family believes his GPS directed him down a road, where he would have likely expected to cross a small bridge. But the bridge hasn’t existed since 2013 when it was washed away. Locally it was known as the “bridge to nowhere.”
Paxson drove off the road, plunging 20 feet into the ravine. State troopers discovered his SUV partially submerged. Inside was Paxson’s body.
“Yes, 100% preventable, in my opinion,” Alycia said of her husband’s death. When asked how this bridge could fall through the cracks, she said, “Unfathomable. I just can’t wrap head around how this could happen.”
Both the state and county say it’s a private road in a private development and they’re not responsible.
“We’ve heard from neighbors that they have heard of babysitters or delivery drivers who almost suffered the same fate as Phil,” attorney Bob Zimmerman, who represents Paxson’s family, said to Inside Edition.
Today, a barricade has been put up to prevent another tragedy. But Alycia is haunted by her husband’s needless death.
“He didn’t deserve to die this way,” she said.