Man drives backhoe in Seven Mile Bridge joyride

Posted at 8:17 AM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 08:17:31-05

Monroe County deputies arrested a man for taking a backhoe for a 90-minute joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys early Tuesday morning.

According to an arrest report, 59-year-old Carl Blahnik stole a backhoe, possibly from a construction site at Marathon City Park, and then drove it onto U.S. 1.

The Sheriff's Office reports Blahnik dumped boulders onto the roadway. He also damaged the road and both sides of the bridge with the backhoe while changing directions several times.

The deputies who were following Blahnik were forced to reverse directions several times to avoid being struck by the backhoe. One deputy’s cruiser was damaged during the pursuit.

Deputies decided to leave the bridge for their own safety.

Blahnik finally drove off the north end of the bridge around 1:20 a.m. Seizing an opportunity to end the pursuit and arrest Blahnik, deputies waiting nearby threw spike strips in front of the backhoe to puncture its tires.

Deputies took Blahnik to Fishermen’s Hospital after he complained of breathing problems and shoulder pain. After being treated he was driven to the Monroe County Jail to be booked.

The Sheriff's Office says it took deputies and FHP troopers more than ninety minutes to clean debris from the road and make sure the bridge was safe to drive on. The bridge reopened for traffic just after 3 a.m.

Blahnik is charged with reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police, grand theft of a vehicle, failing to register a motor vehicle, and digging up or any way disturbing any street or highway.

The Sheriff's Office says Blahnik carried a Wisconsin identification card. However, deputies believe he is homeless and was staying in a wooded area near Coco Plum Beach in Marathon following an encounter with him Monday morning.