MARATHON, Fla. – A man was arrested after taking a backhoe for a joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.
The Seven Mile Bridge was closed to traffic for more than three hours early Tuesday morning after Carl Blahnik dumped boulders on the roadway with a backhoe at the north end of the bridge, Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.
Herrin said he then took the backhoe for a ride, traveling back and forth on the bridge for an hour and a half.
Blahnik, 59, damaged the roadway and the sides of the bridge with the backhoe as he recklessly traveled southbound and then northbound, changing directions several times, Herrin said.
Deputies following him with lights and sirens had to also reverse directions several times to avoid being struck by the backhoe. One deputy’s patrol vehicle was damaged during the pursuit. Deputies finally left the bridge for their own safety, making sure all other vehicles got off the bridge as well.
About 1:20 a.m., Herrin said, Blahnik drove off the north end of the bridge, where waiting deputies threw spike strips in front of the backhoe, puncturing its tires. The vehicle came to a rest and Blahnik was arrested.
Before being taken to jail, Blahnik was taken to Fishermen's Hospital because he had trouble breathing and was complaining of shoulder pain, Herrin said.
It took more than an hour to clean the roadway of debris with the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol. Traffic was finally allowed to resume just after 3 a.m.
Blahnik faces charges of reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police, digging up or any way disturbing any street or highway, failing to register a motor vehicle and grand theft of a vehicle.
Although Blahnik had a Wisconsin identification card with him, an encounter Monday morning revealed he is possibly homeless and living in a wooded area near Coco Plum Beach.
Herrin said deputies believe the backhoe may have been taken from a construction site at Marathon City Park.