Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, Ottawa - Emergency crews are responding to a car that fell into a sinkhole at Hwy. 174 eastbound at the Jeanne d’Arc off-ramp in Ottawa
Credits: COURTESY PHOTO
Juan Pedro Unger was on his way home from work just after 5 p.m. on a day just like any other, when suddenly, a sinkhole opened beneath his car on the Jeanne d'Arc off-ramp, just off east-bound Hwy. 174.
Unger, 48, said he wasn't going fast, maybe 40 km/h, when he noticed a dark patch in the road.
At first, he thought it was fresh asphalt, or maybe even a rug someone had left on the road.
"I quickly thought, 'Do I swerve to avoid it?' But I had cars on both sides and behind me, and I though I had better just slow down," he said.
"And when I was literally four metres away, that's when I could see that it wasn't flat and continuous, that there was actually a gap. And I tried to come to a complete stop."
But Unger was unable to stop in time, and within seconds his 2009 Hyudai Accdent was swallowed whole.
"My immediate thought was I hope I don't get killed or crushed or horribly injured. And the car went vertical, I was hanging from the seat belt, it was holding me in place," he said.
"My immediate next fear was I hope no car or bus comes and piles on top of me."
When he heard voices calling down to see if he was OK, he knew the pathway was clear. He climbed out of his car, saw water flowing underneath him, then reached up to be pulled from the hole by people who stopped to help.
"I'm very grateful to those passersby that stopped and rushed to help, knowing what the danger of the situation was. It's amazing, and they helped save me," he said.
Unger suffered only minor cuts and scrapes to his legs and abdomen.
The crash created gridlock in rush-hour traffic and the highway was shut down eastbound.
By Tuesday evening, Unger had time to process what had
"I'm still shaken. It was an incredibly frightening experience. I'm glad that I'm in one piece and here, sitting at home and alive. I'm still in a bit of disbelief," he said.
Unger said his biggest concern is now for the safety of the roads in the city.
"This should be a red flag," he said.
"Roads should be checked all around the city, because this was a seemingly perfectly fine piece of road, and thousands of people travel on it every day."
A failed storm sewer cause the sinkhole, the city's transportation committee learned Wednesday.
The large, 3.6-metre diameter pipe had been slated for replacement, but staff told committee members they had no reason to believe the pipe was ready to crumble as it did Tuesday.
Staff said the pipe had been inspected last summer. Contractors had been cleaning out the pipe earlier in the day Tuesday.
Since the accident on Tuesday, the sinkhole has collapsed further and is now about three times the size it was when it swallowed Unger's car.
"I'm quite OK. It's amazing. It could have been much worse, I feel quite lucky to be in one piece and at home and not in a hospital bed," Unger said.