City: 98-year-old water main cause of sinkhole that swallowed 3 cars

A sinkhole that swallowed three cars on the Southeast Side and injured one person was caused by an old water main that gave out, city Water Department Commissioner Thomas Powers said today.

The water main in the 9600 block of South Houston Avenue dates from around 1915, Powers said during a briefing on the storm at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“When it broke, it breached the sewer below it,” Powers said. “As it undermined, as the water was flowing from the broken main, it undermined all of the soil underneath the pavement and washed it into the sewer.”

Witnesses said the hole opened up around 5 a.m. at 9600 South Houston Avenue, quickly growing from about 20 feet to about 40 feet. First two cars slid in, then a third as the hole widened, witnesses said. A fourth vehicle was towed from the edge as it was about to fall inside, witnesses said.

Merko Krivokuca was driving his silver pickup truck to work when the hole opened up and he drove down into it. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for “a couple of scratches,” according to his father, Peter Krivokuca.

Krivokuca stared in disbelief at the hole as cleanup crews hovered around the area.

Alejandro Filerio said he heard what sounded like a car crash early this morning. He looked out the window and saw a white car and a gold SUV across the street. Figuring it was just a minor accident, he went back to bed.

An hour and a half later, Filerio, 30, stepped onto his porch and saw the giant hole.

Ola Oni said she was about to leave for work at 5 a.m. but had not gotten in her car yet when it suddenly fell into the hole.

“It could have happened to me, I am lucky, I’m happy,” Oni said. “In this kind of neighborhood, I don’t think this should happen.”

She gestured toward the hole. “Look at this, this neighborhood is in danger.”

When Laide Giwa set off for work Thursday morning, a deep hole had opened next to her parked Dodge Charger. A truck and a car were already in the hole. Giwa, 57, ran inside to call police.

Forty-five minutes later, after firemen had arrived and told her not to move her car, Giwa watched as the hole swallowed her car too.

“I was really upset,” Giwa said. “I’m looking at my car going in the hole.”

A similar breach caused a sinkhole on the Northwest Side near Elston and Foster avenues in 2011, Powers said. He placed the blame on Chicago’s aging infrastructure rather than the heavy rains.

“What happened at both locations was a nearly hundred-year-old water main broke. And the water that was in that water main continues to run. It’s under pressure,” Powers said.”And at the same time the water main broke, it breached old sewer as well, at both locations, washed out the street, washed out all the soil. And the pavement couldn’t even handle it’s own weight any more, let alone the three cars sitting on top of it.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made the city’s aging water system a priority, pushing through water rate hikes to fund replacement of the pipes.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

1 Comment

  • About time

    Hopefully all of the water mains on the south and west side of Chicago are 98 years old! Chicago would be a better place if those places got swallowed up!

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