Sinkhole swallows car in parking lot of Ross Township tanning salon

Sinkhole Swallows Car in Parking Lot of Pennsylvania Tanning Salon
Sinkhole Swallows Car in Parking Lot of Pennsylvania Tanning Salon

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A sinkhole that opened suddenly and swallowed a woman's car outside a tanning salon was caused by a storm drain that carries an underwater stream beneath the parking lot, according to police.

WTAE reports: Lisa Masley, the owner of Hollywood Tans on McKnight Road, rescued her customer from the car before it vanished into the large hole as severe storms moved through the area Tuesday afternoon.

Masley said Natalie Huddleston just left left the salon and called her on the phone. She couldn't see the parking lot because the front desk of the salon is tall, but she was told to come outside because Huddleston needed help.

"When I stood up and looked, her car already turned into a see-saw and was hanging over the edge," Masley said.

Huddleston, of Shaler Township, said that she had started to back the car up when she heard a "thunk."

"I was kind of sticking up in the air, kind of disoriented. Hit the gas, nothing happened. No contact with anything in the back wheels. They were spinning. I felt a rocking motion and I felt myself sinking," said Huddleston.

"I said, 'Help, look outside, look outside,' and she came out and she was able to help me climb out the driver's side window because I couldn't get the door open and we sat and watched my car go deeper and deeper and now you can't see it. It's gone."

Masley told Huddleston to lower her driver-side window:

"I think I was a little more nervous. I just didn't know what to think," Masley said. "You know, she was in the car and everything, and once I got out there, we were both pretty calm and I just said, 'Give me your hand.' It happened so fast but it's true though -- like, it was literally within a couple of minutes -- and she climbed out and that was it."

"When I went out to help her, I kept thinking, 'Don't stand too close.' I was a little nervous when I was out there. And as soon as we got her out, we just ran into the salon," Masley added.

Overnight, a tow truck was able to pull Huddleston's vehicle out of the huge sinkhole after crews drained it, revealing the car underneath the debris and rubble.

The tanning salon and other businesses were evacuated. Another car that was parked just inches from the sinkhole has been moved. A second, smaller sinkhole also formed in the parking lot next door, outside Midas and BJ Nails & Spa.

A public information officer for Ross Township said a 60-inch stormwater management system runoff pipe collapsed, causing the sinkhole. Utilities were turned off in the area and a smell of gas was also being investigated, the PIO said.

"Obviously with the storms today, we've had a significant amount of stormwater runoff, and there are deteriorated pipes under the road in this section here," Ross Township police Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.

The business is expected to be closed for several days while repairs are made. Police said the owner of the property is responsible for repairs. The building's owners haven't commented on the issue.

"Because it's an active storm water runoff area, more rain could slow or halt construction for the time being on this area, so it may delay the progress they're making," Kohlhepp said.

Masley is grateful that she could help Huddleston, but says she doesn't consider herself a hero.

"It's kind of cliche to say it, but really anyone in that situation, if someone called you, anyone would have done that," she said. "You just can't watch that and say, 'Oh, I'll call for help,' but anyone in my position would have done it. It just kicks in."

"She's calling you, looking at you for help. You can't just let someone like that sit in their car," she added.

Hollywood Tans customers who have packages at the North Hills location can use the Monroeville store instead. Masley said customers can check Facebook for updates on when the McKnight Road store will open.

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