A sinkhole in the Ohio city of Toledo swallowed a vehicle and its driver whole after a spate of heavy rain and a burst water pipe severely undermined the quality of local roads.
The vehicle driven by 60 year old Pamela Knox, a principal at Glendle-Feilbach Elementary School, was engulfed by the sinkhole when it collapsed at a busy interaction on North Detroit Avenue.
The car in front of Ms. Knox managed to escape the sinkhole just as it began its collapse, yet Ms. Knox herself was not so fortunate, and her own vehicle fell approximately 10 feet below the surface of the road.
Once the car fell into the sinkhole water from a ruptured water line began pouring into its back seat.
Ms. Knox later managed to clamber to safety via a ladder provided by rescue staff and with the assistance of a firefighter, but not before being severely shaken by ordeal.
“It was very scary. I didn’t want to keep looking at (the water) because it made it worse. I stayed face-forward but it was filling up that back seat.”
“I was calling on the name of Jesus and all I could do was say ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,’ and I kept saying it over and over and over again.”
“I know that’s what kept me safe, was just calling on the power of the Lord.”
Authorities say the cause of the accident was the collapse of a brick sewer line beneath the road – the same one which began filling the vehicle with water once it plunged into the sinkhole.
Heavy rains were also a key contributing factor, with northwest Ohio experiencing far greater rainfall on average in recent weeks. Toledo has seen 6.46 inches of rain since June 1, compared to a seasonal average of 3.78 inches.
Sinkholes generally form in areas where the ground is comprised of soluble rock, which is known as "karst terrain." These soluble rocks can include limestone, gypsum and salt.
Heavy rainfall is the a contributing factor in the opening of sinkholes in karst terrain regions, as water becomes acidic once it seeps underground thus leading to their formation.
Human factors can also lead to the formation of sinkholes, with a chief cause being the crumbling of old sewage pipes and water mains, as was most likely the cause in the recent Toledo incident.