A sheriff’s deputy met a tragic end Sunday when her car ended up in a water-filled sinkhole in the middle of a San Antonio road in Texas. The San Antonio Fired Department, which helped remove the vehicle from the hole, said another car had a similar fate. Fortunately, the driver of the second car escaped only with minor injuries.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office reported the next day that the late deputy was a 69-year-old woman who was off-duty at the time. Deputy Dora Linda Nishihara reportedly was a courthouse bailiff at the time of the accident. Between Aug. 2009 and Oct. 2016, she served as a reserve deputy. San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor expressed his condolences in a public statement.
“My heart and prayers go out to the family involved in this tragedy,”
the mayor said.
Heavy Rain Likely Behind the Sinkhole
He also assured his city residents that the Transportation & Capital Improvements, the San Antonio Water System, and the city’s fire department were working together to secure the site. Representatives from all three departments will reportedly remain at the scene to ensure workers make all repairs.
Emergency crews removed Deputy Nishihara’s car from the 12-feet-deep water with help from a crane. Authorities found the woman’s body inside the car. The accident occurred Sunday when Nishihara was
usually not on duty, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told reporters.
City officials think the sinkhole appeared in the wake of heavy rainfall earlier that day. The extra water ruptured a sewer line causing the sinkhole.
Local officials said witnesses were able to save a second driver after his vehicle plunged into the sinkhole. The driver and one of the passers-by that rescued him landed in a nearby hospital with minor injuries.
Authorities agree that sinkholes are a dangerous phenomenon even though it is quite rare. In 2013, a similar incident made the headlines when a huge sinkhole swallowed the home of a Florida man. The man’s body was never found and rescue teams had to call off the search.
Sinkhole Risk across the U.S.
Experts noted that some parts of the country are more prone to sinkholes than others. For instance, while New York has a very low risk, Missouri is among the most dangerous states to live in when it comes to sinkhole risk.
Civil engineers know that sinkholes pop up when underground water erodes soft rocks such as salt beds, carbonate rock, or limestone. When the water completely dissolves these layers it leaves caverns bellow the Earth’s surface. When these gaps get large enough they cause the ground above to collapse.
The resulting gap is called a sinkhole which usually has a round shape. According to data from the United States Geological Survey, 20 percent of U.S. surface is prone to sinkhole creation. The states with the highest risk, however, are Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Moreover, the USGS reports that up to 40 percent of U.S. land contains layers of soft rocks. Fortunately, in most regions these rocks are buried deep underground. Nevertheless, there is always the possibility to buy a sinkhole insurance, just in case.
Image Source: San Antonio Fire Dept.