Ottawa sinkhole opens up, swallows car, driver

Juan Pedro Unger hit the brakes, but it was too late and his car went nose first into the hole

Spring is usually sinkhole season, but that doesn't mean they can't open up any time of the year and swallow a car.

That's exactly what happened to Juan Pedro Unger when he was driving his 2009 Hyundai Accent eastbound on Jeanne d'Arc off-ramp of 174 near Ottawa.

"I stepped on the brakes but it was just too late," Unger said to the Ottawa Citizen. "The car went in nose first."

At first he thought it was fresh pavement, but then thought it may be a piece of cloth. He was wrong.

As the photo shows the car plunged into the opening like it was going off a cliff.

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Unger was fist happy to be alive, but then realized he had to get out of the hole as quickly as possibly because some other driver may follow him down there. He also feared he may sink deeper. As he clung by his seatbelt he weighed his options of trying to climb out or waiting for help.

After about 30 seconds he heard voices shouting at him, he opened the driver's door and stepped on the car. He saw water flowing beneath him and couldn't tell how deep the sinkhole was.

He reached up for the pavement and two men helped him climb out of the hole.

"It was a very fortunate thing in this case that there was no one tailgating that would have done the person in, for sure," said bystander Barry Stevens to the Ottawa Citizen. "It had to happen just so quickly without any warning."

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This sinkhole incident comes after a busy year across Canada. A sinkhole opened in Saskatoon large enough to drive a car through, although luckily no one did. In November, a 30-metre long one opened up in the Toronto area on Bayview Ave. north of Steeles Ave. closing the street for a week. In September, a 10-metre long hole opened up near Woodbine and Steeles avenues also in the Toronto area closing part of the road for some time. And in Vancouver, a sinkhole swallowed a 14-metre long chuck of SE Marine Drive.

The two Toronto sinkholes were caused by water main breaks and the Vancouver one is believed to be a result of the same thing.

In Ottawa, CBC is reporting officials haven't determined the exact cause, but workers say it was caused because part of the storm sewer that goes under the highway rotted away.

Pierre Poirier, the city's chief of security and emergency management said Unger's car kept moving downward and made its way into the 3.6-metre wide storm sewer pipe. City officials are figuring out how to retrieve the car. The eastbound lanes are expected to remain closed most of Wednesday and possibly longer.

(With files from CBC)

(CP photo)

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