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South Side sinkhole: ‘It went fast. Boom’

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Updated: May 20, 2013 7:41PM



All Olaide Giwa could do was watch helplessly as her new 2013 Dodge Charger plopped into the sinkhole.

The 57-year-old nurse was heading to work in Glenview and had just walked out of her son’s home in the 9600 block of South Houston about 5:20 a.m. Thursday when she saw a silver truck whose driver appeared to be having trouble steering.

And then she saw the truck sink into the road, swallowed by a sinkhole that had grown to a 30-foot diameter by early morning.

“I see the car going inside. I say, ‘Wait a minute. What’s going on?’” she said.

Soon after, the sinkhole swallowed her brother’s car, too.

Frantic, Giwa wanted to move her Charger, now on the edge of the sinkhole, but firefighters wouldn’t let her.

“I wanted to back up my own car. They say, ‘You can’t do that. The third one is going in at any time,’” she said.

“Then it went fast. Boom.”

Pete Krivokuca, the driver of the silver truck, was taken to Northwestern Hospital with minor injuries, according to his father, Mirko Krivokuca.

“He called me. He’s all right. He don’t break nothing.”

The sinkhole continued to grow throughout the morning, and at 8 a.m. a knock on the door woke Fidel Hernandez, 25, and he learned police were preparing for a tow truck to move his 2005 Oldsmobile Bravado, at the sinkhole’s edge.

“A back tire was sinking slowly. It was unbelievable. Once they hooked it in, it was sinking little by little.”

The car, on which Hernandez only has liability insurance, suffered only minor damage. “I’m already struggling as it is,” he said. “I really didn’t need that.”

Water Management spokesman Tom LaPorte said late Thursday morning that the sinkhole was caused by a broken water main that’s nearly a century old.

It’s one of many targeted for replacement as part of the massive rebuilding program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel chose to bankroll with a near doubling of water rates over a four-year period.

LaPorte said the old water main “broke in half” and breached the sewer, washing out all of the sandy soil and undermining the street.

“There was no visible sign above the street. That’s why it broke and why nobody had a warning of it,” LaPorte said.

“All of the water pumping out of the broken main was not going up. Instead, it was going down into the sewer.”

Before cars swallowed up by the sinkhole can be safely removed, Water Management needs to place “shoring equipment in the hole,” he said. Only then can crews examine the break in the water main and “see if it can be fixed with a clamp or whether the pipe needs to be replaced.”

Water Management Commissioner Tom Powers likened the massive sink hole to a similar problem at Foster and Elston in August, 2011.

In both cases, there was “no visible warning” before the pavement gave way because the water main broke in half and breached the sewer, allowing water to flow down into the sewer, instead of up into the street.

“What happened at both locations was a nearly 100-year-old water main broke and water in that water main continues to run. It’s under pressure. At the same time the water main broke . . . washed out the street, washed out all the soil and the pavement couldn’t even handle its own weight anymore, let alone the three cars sitting on top of it,” Powers said.

“At Foster and Elston, it was actually two cars passing over it when the pavement collapsed. So, they’re very similar in nature and they’re indicative of an old infrastructure. . .”

Until there’s a fix, water service in the immediate area will remain shut down in the 96th and Houston area.

Water Management crews also have barricaded a depression in the street at 92nd and Bennett for fear that a sinkhole may be developing there, a City Hall source said. Crews are checking to determine whether the sinkhole at 96th and Houston and the depression at 92nd and Bennett are related.



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