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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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sulandherb January 26 2014 at 10:30 AM

I can't imagine ever feeling safe there again. Nightmares......if you can fall asleep. Good luck to her and her family. Yikes!!

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kaustin January 26 2014 at 9:22 AM

Here in upstate NY we were running water lines from a new drilled well to my house about 20 years ago. On a day when I was working on it alone I was down in a 5ft deep ditch cleaning loose dirt out of the bottom in order to spread a layer of crushed stone under the water line. All of a sudden my left foot drop through the ground beneath me. As I started down, my right knee buckled. Luckily my instincts took over and I spread my elbows out on the top of the ditch a nanosecond before I would have dropped out of sight. I managed to pull myself back up to safety and out of the ditch. I have no idea how deep the void was but it was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me.

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2 replies
keefero kaustin January 26 2014 at 9:38 AM

Wow... Kaustin...you must have lived near Howe Caverns ... That is an amazing story as is yours. Did you ever find out what the geology was?
Happy that you are okay, you sound bright and fast on your feet (and arms). Bless you.... !
(PS I am also in NYS, so this sorta blows me away - these sinkholes do seem to be popping up all over more so now)

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wittlief kaustin January 26 2014 at 9:43 AM

And you were trying to improve the drainage!

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saziu January 26 2014 at 7:47 AM

Google "sink holes in Florida map" Up comes a map to show where many of them are located in each county. It's shocking..........

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1 reply
zygi & paris saziu January 26 2014 at 8:51 AM

It can happen anywhere, but, Florida just does not seem to be a good place to be, for many reasons.

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1 reply
Kwriter zygi & paris January 26 2014 at 9:05 AM

Amen to that about Florida. like the idiotic law that let Zimmeman go free.

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endmillll January 26 2014 at 9:27 AM

It seems like them sink holes are popping up everywhere there..

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2 replies
wittlief endmillll January 26 2014 at 9:40 AM

Popping down......

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irishgal5018 endmillll January 26 2014 at 9:48 AM

They are all over Florida, and this is not a new thing. These sink holes have been happening for decades. One opened up on hwy. 200 in Ocala back in the 70's and the car in front of us was taken into it. We were scared, but not as badly as the folks driving in that car. They do seem to be getting larger as time goes by. But, you have to take into consideration that Florida is mostly sand and lime stone. And, too many people have moved there, and the swamps are being drained to build houses on them. The builders and the counties are ignoring the fact that they are destroying the Ecosystem. Not to mention that where once there was swamp will NOT support that many houses forever. You don't have to drill very far down for a well in Florida, before hitting water. Ours was only 37 feet down. Sometimes I think Florida is really just an attached floating island.

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1 reply
lmpchapman irishgal5018 January 26 2014 at 3:15 PM


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dan_crabtree January 26 2014 at 10:04 AM

been there.. seen this..no thanks.. moved back to a state with solid ground...

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1 reply
Hello Joe dan_crabtree January 26 2014 at 10:31 AM

Sink holes have developed in nearly every state with the exception of Alaska where the ground stays frozen.

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zygi & paris January 26 2014 at 8:47 AM

That was a horrible experience for her, I am sure. Happy that she kept her cool, and was rescued. Big thanks to the policemen who helped also.

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1 reply
bornelk zygi & paris January 26 2014 at 9:01 AM

Big thanks to the cell phone and her husband. I was stuck many years ago in an elevator, in the city of Washington, DC and the only thing that saved us was my cell phone and my friend calling her husband in West Palm Beach. He in turn telephoned the Washington DC emergency crew. It was forty five minutes in that elevator and a horrible experience. So, I say thank-you to the husbands of this country and the cell phone companies.

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Lynda January 26 2014 at 8:42 AM

WOW.... I personally would have been freaking out too! God Bless Her and the Policeman who saved her. What a story to tell. P.S. I would be moving as soon as possible.

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bch444 January 26 2014 at 9:50 AM

will never garden again without my cell phone in my pocket......

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coleymlc409 January 26 2014 at 10:09 AM

Thanks to GOD you got out .

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memaw7824 January 26 2014 at 6:10 AM

That's scary, good thinking on her part to throw her phone where it would get reception.

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