‘Unimaginable and horrific’: Widow sues over GPS route that led to deadly crash

HICKORY, N.C. — Nearly a year after a man plunged off of a road into a creek below, his widow is filing a lawsuit against Google.

Philip Paxson was driving in the Hickory area and using Google Maps in late September 2022 when he took 24th Street Pl. NE and crashed into a creek.

Paxson’s family’s attorneys said Wednesday that it was more than ten hours before anyone found him in his Jeep in Snow Creek. He was 47 at the time of his death.

He had just gone to his 9-year-old daughter’s birthday party.

His wife, Alicia, says she left the party with the kids earlier, and when she woke up the next morning, she realized Phil hadn’t made it home.

“I just struggle every day to understand how something so unimaginable and horrific could be allowed to happen,” Alicia told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty.

The portion of 24th Street Pl. NE washed away in 2013, when state troopers say flooding badly damaged a culvert there.

The family’s attorney says Paxson was following Google Maps that night after the party, and he was guided over the unguarded edge of the collapsed bridge.

“Phil had no idea that for nine years, there was a 20-foot canyon in the middle of the road, in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” said Robert Zimmerman, an attorney for the family.

Zimmerman says the Jeep flipped over and Paxson drowned in the creek.

The family filed a civil lawsuit in Wake County against Google and several other defendants who the attorneys say were responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the private road. It’s a road they say Google had been warned about before.

“We have learned through our investigation that for years, Google attempted to lead people over a collapsed bridge despite being notified by users of this exact danger,” Zimmerman said.

The attorneys claim Google ignored those warnings to update the maps and mark the bridge as closed.

“It’s really impossible to comprehend how those responsible for the Google Maps GPS could have such disregard and negligence for human life,” Alicia told Faherty.

A Google spokesperson responded to Channel 9 on Wednesday, saying: “We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family. Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps and we are reviewing this lawsuit.”

Attorneys told Faherty that other map providers don’t identify 24th Street Pl. NE as a passable road.

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