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Bridge Backhoe Joyride Ends In State Prison

Monroe County Sheriff's Office
Carl Blahnik was sentenced to 30 months in state prison on charges from his 90-minute joyride in this backhoe on the Seven Mile Bridge

A backhoe joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge last winter that tied up traffic in the Florida Keys and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage has ended in state prison.

Carl Blahnik, 60, was sentenced this week to 30 months in state prison. He also has to pay more than $43,000 in restitution for damage to the bridge and the backhoe.

On Feb. 16, Blahnik took a backhoe off a construction lot in Marathon and drove to the Seven Mile Bridge, the span that connects the Middle and Lower Keys. He dropped several small boulders at the entrance to the bridge. He then drove the length of the bridge, evading attempts by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office to stop him.

Video from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office of the backhoe joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge

After about 90 minutes, Blahnik drove off the bridge where deputies used a stinger spike strip to deflate the tires and stop him. He was immediately arrested. According to police, he told them he was trying to slow down traffic because people do not know how to drive.

The bridge was closed until about 3 a.m. while crews cleaned up and repaired damage.

Blahnik eventually pleaded no contest to aggravated fleeing and eluding, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft auto, criminal mischief, littering and reckless driving. He was sentenced Monday by Monroe County Judge Ruth Becker.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.