Driver mistakes Boynton pedestrian bridge for road

BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The bridge was intended for those on two legs, not four wheels, but don't tell that to 89-year-old Abe Miller.

"He was a good driver," said Shirley Miller, Abe's wife of more than 45 years. "I still don't believe it. I still can't believe that this at all happened."

Police say Abe Miller was driving in suburban Boynton Beach Tuesday and mistook a pedestrian walkway for a roadway, driving onto it. Dozens of onlookers gathered to watch crews free Miller and his four-door sedan; metal bent, tires stuck, a railing, impaling the car; as it was precariously perched over a canal.

The aluminum bridge is no more than a few feet wide, and is not intended for car traffic. It is just east of El Clair Ranch Road, near the intersection of Woolbright Road.

"The handles on either side [of the bridge] - one of them broke into his windshield, through the hood and dashboard," said Michael Valletta, who witnessed the accident. "[The beam] literally flew within a foot of his head."

Miller became trapped inside his car while the walkway bent and cracked. Rescue crews fought the clock to save him and his car from falling into the canal below.

"He's just a nice guy who made a wrong turn," said Miller's longtime friend, Gloria Klein, who watched the rescue efforts unfold. "[But] I'm not the worrying type."

Emergency workers from Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue worked to stabilize Miller's four-door sedan. They broke windows, and attached a wide yellow sling from a tow truck and through the car, so if the bridge gave way, it wouldn't fall into water. Dive crews were on standby.

"We were trying not to at all put any more weight on the car because the strap that was holding the car wasn't actually holding it," said Palm Beach County Firefighter John Nickels. "[The strap] was a 'just-in-case.' The car was still being held by the bridge. We had it strapped on in case the bridge gave way."

Nickels and other rescuers worked with a team of experts to strap Miller to a backboard and pull him from his car. Miller was taken to Delray Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

"He wanted to be out of there really bad," Nickels said. "He was alert and he was with it, but he wanted out."

Miller's car was removed. The pedestrian bridge remains closed and will need to be rebuilt.