Seven Mile Bridge was closed to traffic for over three hours early last Tuesday after a man dumped boulders on the roadway with a backhoe at the north end of the bridge. The man, identified as 59-year old Carl Blahnik, then took the backhoe for a ride, traveling back and forth on the bridge for an hour and a half.
“At one point a deputy got out of his car and tried to reason with the man and almost got hit with the jackhammer,” said Becky Herrin, spokesperson for the Monroe County Sheriff's Department.
“Initially they were following him very closely,” Herrin said, but then the man put the backhoe in reverse and was chasing the police backwards with the jackhammer. The police then followed from a distance for their own safety, but “trying to keep him in sight,” according to Herrin.
Blahnik damaged the roadway and the sides of the bridge with the backhoe as he recklessly traveled first southbound, then northbound changing directions several times. 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, also making sure all other vehicles exited the bridge as well.
Finally, at about 1:20 a.m., Blahnik drove off the north end of the bridge and waiting deputies threw Stinger Spike strips in front of the backhoe puncturing its tires. The vehicle came to a rest and Blahnik was arrested. He complained of pain in his shoulder and trouble breathing so he was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital before being taken to jail.
Blahnik was charged with 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.
Blahnik was carrying a Wisconsin identification card at the time of his arrest, but an encounter deputies had with him Monday morning revealed he is possibly homeless and staying in a wooded area near Coco Plum Beach. It is believed the backhoe may have been taken from a construction site at Marathon City Park.