ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – Crews are working to fix a storm drain runoff pipe in Ross Township after a sinkhole swallowed up a car Tuesday.
According to officials at the scene, the pipe collapsed and caused a 50-foot long and 20-foot wide sinkhole.
It’s estimated to be between 12 to 17-feet deep.
Ross Township officials said the pipe starts at Northway Mall and ends at Babcock Boulevard, which is about a two-mile stretch.
Tuesday evening, a car in the parking lot of Hollywood Tans was sucked into the hole. Natalie Huddleston of Shaler was inside, but managed to get out through the window with the help of a tanning salon employee.
“I called the lady in the tanning salon and said, ‘Help! Look out ide, look outside.’ I felt myself teetering. So, she reached her hand in the window and I climbed out the window and then I realized my car was going down and down and down. The next time I looked, it was gone. I’m in shock. This is not happening. My car is gone. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Natalie Huddleston said.
Today, crews began digging into the sinkhole to find the drainage pipe.
“A number of businesses along there have been replaced in their section as they have done renovations, but this was one of the sections that had not been replaced yet,” Brian Kohlhepp with Ross Township Police said.
Work crews say a 48 to 60-inch portion of the pipe collapsed during heavy rains on Tuesday.
“When we get a heavy rain like that, it caused an additional issue and the fact the pipes were outdated and needed to be replaced,” Kohlhepp said.
Officials said the pipe is privately owned by property owners, not the township.
“In 2012, the township did camera the line as a courtesy for property owners. In August 2012, we invited property owners to come and we disseminated that information to them stating that it was their responsibility to maintain the line,” Ross Township Manager Douglas Sample said.
Ross Township resident Al Kress remembers what was once in the sinkhole’s spot many years ago.
“They closed off the open creek when they developed the northern part of McKnight Road. But, before that, it was an open creek all the way down to Babcock Boulevard,” Kress said.
Ross Township officials said some of the businesses near the sinkhole will have to remain closed until all the utilities are turned back on and parking is available.
Crews estimate repairs will take about a week, but McKnight Road is open in both directions.
NO. WAY. I can’t believe that pic.twitter.com/J6UV0bA0aB
— R O X Y (@RoxyOglesby) August 12, 2014
Natalie Huddleston joined “The KDKA Morning News” to talk about her car being sucked into the Earth by the sinkhole and her escape.
“I left the tanning place got into my car, backed up and felt a sort of crunch and all of the sudden the car felt like it wasn’t level. When I hit the gas, the wheels [were just] spinning.”
Huddleson thought maybe she had hit a pot hole at first then then, when she “looked back all I could just see water and I was tilted on an angle.”
Huddleson says she is happy to be alive and is grateful for the woman that helped her escape her car.