Carroll County man dies after van falls into 2-story-deep hole on Route 31 SINKHOLE PLUNGE IS FATAL

March 31, 1994|By Melody Simmons and Richard Irwin | Melody Simmons and Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writers Staff writer Bill Talbott contributed to this article.

A 25-year-old Taneytown man died today after his van plunged two stories into a gaping hole on Route 31 in Carroll County early today when a section of the road collapsed near Medford Road between Westminster and New Windsor.

Robert Wayne Knight was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died at 7:24 this morning.

Mr. Knight's van was heading west when it suddenly dropped into the 18-foot-deep sink hole at 2:30 a.m. and landed upside down. A person driving behind Mr. Knight witnessed the accident and notified police.

Mr. Knight was trapped inside the van for more than two hours. Medics stabilized Mr. Knight and monitored his condition while rescue units from Carroll County and the Advanced Tactical Rescue team from the Perry Hall fire station in Baltimore County worked to prevent more of the roadway from caving in.

They had to work delicately, shoring up the sides of the hole to prevent another cave-in.

State Police Sgt. Steve Reynolds said that the sinkhole appeared abruptly after water from a nearby Medford Quarry weakened the limestone underneath the roadway.

Sgt. Reynolds said Mr. Knight was the first driver to come upon the gaping hole, which engulfed one 12-foot-wide lane and the 10-foot-wide shoulder.

Sgt. Reynolds said the sinkhole measured 70 feet long and 30 feet wide.

Grant Garven, a groundwater geologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University, said today a sinkhole occurs after limestone is eroded by underground water.

"It's not uncommon for these things to appear," Mr. Garven said"Eventually, the ground gives way and there is a collapse, and the collapose can be very fast.

Sgt. Reynolds said neighbors who live near the hole have complained about water gushing from the quarry recently. He said the area has experienced problems with sinkholes before.

AState highway crews this morning filled the hole with 600 tons of rocks from the Genstar Stone Products Medford Quarry, about a mile away.a nearby quarry, said Richard Lindsay, assistant district engineer for the administration.

A 28-ton crane was brought to the scene to lift the van out of the hole. The road was expected to reopen by 4 p.m. today with a temporary surface. Highway crews will continue to fill and compact the hole for several days, Mr. Lindsay said.

By the end of the month, the road will be completely resurfaced, he added.

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