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'Swallowed Alive': Falling in a sinkhole

'Sinkholes: Swallowed Alive': Falling in a Sinkhole

Falling in a sinkhole seems hopeless, but this woman survived to tell the tale.

Carla Chapman was in her garden in Plant City, Fla., when a 'huge black lizard jumped out of [a] pot.' That made Carla jump backward -- and as soon as her feet hit the ground, she was crashing through the earth.

'There wasn't any grass, there wasn't anything to hold on to. It was wet clay, this heavy clay and sand, this confusion,' she said. 'I know what it feels like to begin to suffocate, and the harder you struggle, the further down you go.'

Carla immediately tried to call 911, but she didn't have good service in the hole. Her phone cut off before her location could be pinpointed. Her saving grace was a decision to call her husband, Keith, and then throw the phone up onto the grass. She continued to scream so that he would know something was very wrong.

Though Keith couldn't understand what she was saying, he managed to hear 'help' and 'hole.'

He immediately called the police department, and officer William Omanski was able to follow her screams and find her. All he saw was her fingertips sticking out of the hole.

Carla and Keith believe that groundwater drainage to irrigate nearby strawberry fields may have caused the sinkhole.


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senturys777 January 27 2014 at 9:00 AM

Pasco County, FL is the #1 sinkhole county in Florida. And, yet, on May 7, 2013, Commissioners Pat Mulieri, Ted Schrader, Kathryn Starkey, and Henry Wilson approved a limestone blasting permit at Lago Verde Sand Mine. Lago Verde Mine abuts our upscale subdivision and rural community. Our community is in the cone of influence of Cross Bar Wellfield. Cross Bar Wellfield has been overpumping the aquifer since 1980. Our community lost all the bodies of water. Lake Loyce, Monsees Pond, and Pasco Lake are augmented (water pumped from the aquifer) to keep them at critical level. Even after the Water Wars, Cross Bar Wellfield pumps over 12 million gallons of water PER DAY from this area. With that much removal of water from our area, our underground structure is compromised. Even with presenting to the Pasco County commissioners 2 huge binders of scientific data and expert reports, those four commissioners voted for a limestone blasting permit on a 97-acre property that fronts U.S. 41. Even though there are 70+ bus stops in this area, those 4 commissioners approved over 300 dump/rock trucks to use this mine each day. Other than noise, Pasco County government doesn't see a difference between sand mining and limestone blasting. Even with the noise of 300+ dump/rock trucks, conveyors, crushers, screeners, loaders the limestone blasting permit was approved. Even with shockwaves from the blast that can feel like a 3.0 earthquake, those four commissioners approved a blasting permit. Even with a blast resulting in tons of dust and dangerous gases and the possibility of sinkholes and impacts to wells, Mulieri, Schrader, Starkey and Wilson approved the limestone blasting permit. Commissioner Jack Mariano was the only commissioner that fought for the community.

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deltasybil January 26 2014 at 10:20 PM

Praise God!

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lilac January 26 2014 at 9:45 PM

Had to leave my home because of a sink hole..So very dangerous

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iteachred January 26 2014 at 9:41 PM

It has been proven that groundwater irrigation is responsible for many sinkholes, and most of those are near those areas where crops are...Plant CIty, Seffner, Valrico, and many other places. Smart homeowners get the land their home will be/is built on checked, and filled if found to be problematic. Florida is built up on limestone and sand, so it's all over the place. SO happy for this woman; too bad the guy in Seffner didn't make it. Now comes the real problem for her...losing and getting new homeowner's insurance after the drawn out process to get the land remediated. Hope she uses the premiere company, not the cheap guys.

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rngrits January 26 2014 at 9:39 PM

I googled this, since I live near Plant City, FL and I have heard nothing on the local news about this. This incident ocurred in 2010!

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2 replies to rngrits's comment
angeljoyful January 26 2014 at 9:56 PM

Not surprised. They recycle news all the time.

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jsmith120313 January 26 2014 at 10:09 PM

It took HUFFPO 4 yrs to report this???? are you kidding me??

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aagraychapman January 26 2014 at 9:07 PM

PRAISE THE LORD!!! GOD CERTAINLY HAD HIS ANGELS AROUND CARLA. I'M SO GLAD THIS ENDED WELL.

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1 reply to aagraychapman's comment
jakki051 January 26 2014 at 9:14 PM

me too!

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jmg62 January 26 2014 at 8:50 PM

Ya know that lizard should be hunted down and killed. He set it all up trying to trap somethin' for dinner and didn't expect such a large meal. He knew ALL about that hole and was tired of insects all the time! Probably walked on over to her cell phone and turned it OFF too after she through it out. Those little dickin's will kill ya if you let 'em in Florida! Wouldn't that have been a way to die? They'd never would have figure out what murdered her! Oh, yeah, crafty devils - they're still hatin' on about their big cousin's being wiped out! Carla and Keith need get on out there and git that thing - put it down. Pure Evil, ~ just evil.

Went to West Palm around Christmas time - layin' in the sun and "flickin'" at what I thought was a "fly" - it wouldn't get off my chest! Finally I open up an eye - and what do I SEE! An Anole with a tiny - but very sharp - knife and fork in it's hands, with a Jolly Rodger Skull & Cross-Bones bib wrapped 'round it's neck and a pirate's eye patch on it's left eye! No more - no sirree - sneak right up on ya! All the rest were standing around with chinette ware plates and forks - I felt like Gulliver and the Liliputians! Returned home white as a sheet - uh, uh, not gonna have an obit readin' like that!

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1 reply to jmg62's comment
Elizabeth January 26 2014 at 11:45 PM

I loved your comments.......I'm still laughing.

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melvnr January 26 2014 at 8:27 PM

You can't sue God.
You can sue a strawberry farm.

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shasta4737 January 26 2014 at 8:15 PM

Thank God she's okay. That would have been so scary!

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Ken Kindschi January 26 2014 at 8:01 PM

This is one of the reasons that I keep my GPS tracking ON!, as one never knows what emergency may happen you you.

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