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Police Car Stuck In Sinkhole

A sinkhole almost swallowed up a police car in South Central El Paso around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday. Our ABC7 crew discovered this wasn’t the first time the neighborhood has seen a busted water pipe.

A spokeswoman for El Paso Water Utilities confirmed that on Nov. 12, there was another pipe-break just two blocks away from the sinkhole on the intersection of Rusk Avenue and Pecos Drive. Even though neighbors have dealt with busted pipes before, nothing could prepare resident April Gerome for what she woke up to this morning.

“It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen,” said Gerome. “That hole just swallowed him, I mean just swallowed him.”

Gerome got up in the middle of the night for a drink, when she saw rushing water and mud outside her yard. She claimed that she made multiple attempts to reach EPWU, but said that none answered. Instead she reached out to the El Paso Police.

EPWU spokeswoman Christina Montoya said that operators may have been busy with other callers at the time.

“If 40 people were calling at once, that is going to tie up the line,” said Montoya.

El Paso Police said the burst water-main turned into a sinkhole when an officer drove his car over it. According to Montoya, pipes like the one that burst are usually buried around 5 feet underground and the force of a rupture can literally cause the road to open up.

Montoya said the pipes in the neighborhood date back to the 1960s, but age isn’t necessarily a cause for leaks in this case.

“Sometimes we do get the breaks with just the normal wear and tear on the system,” said Montoya.

With 2,500 miles of water mains in El Paso, Montoya said, EPWU is constantly making updates and improvements to the city’s pipes.

“(EPWU is) going and looking at the areas that do need rehabilitation, and we’re setting aside budget dollars to make sure that does happen,” said Montoya.

For Gerome, improvements or not, she still can’t shake that shocking image.

“I’ll just never forget that police officer going into that hole,” said Gerome.

Montoya said there have been 198 pipe bursts this year. That number is down a little from 205 in 2010. According to EPWU, roads in the area open, but will not be paved until next week.

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