In what sounds like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, a couple managed to swim out of a Jeep Patriot after it began falling into a 12-foot-long sinkhole that formed in Vancouver, Washington. The passengers explained how they survived the incident to a local news outlet.
Kevin Noel, the driver, and Katlynn Bicknell, his girlfriend who was riding in the passenger-side front seat, ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Law enforcement officials told the Seattle Times that a 1940s water main located about four feet below the asphalt had started to leak and erode the ground above it. The pavement looked normal, so Noel drove over it after turning onto West 30th Street at 1:15 a.m.
The car broke through the asphalt and started sinking into a hole full of water. The Jeep pitched forward “like a rollercoaster,” Bicknell told the outlet. She added that she panicked and tried opening the door to escape, but the water’s weight closed it and trapped her leg and foot. Noel reached over and pushed the door open long enough for Bicknell to swim out. He then rolled down the window (manual windows, luckily) and climbed out.
Bicknell told investigators that the car was traveling at approximately 10 mph when it broke through the road, so it got caught on the edge of the hole. She adds that it may have fallen deeper into the hole had Noel been driving faster. Either way, the crossover is totaled.
While the odds of falling into a sinkhole are relatively low, Bicknell provided advice on how to react in unexpected situations. First, don’t panic; she told the Times that, had she remained calm, she might have rolled down her window instead of trying to open the door. She also said that she has since purchased a window breaker and added it to the emergency kit she carries around in her car.
Vancouver officials repaired the leak and filled the hole about 12 hours after it tried to swallow the Jeep.