FREDERICK -- A Frederick man was seriously injured early yesterday when a sinkhole near Interstate 70 began swallowing his car and he had to scramble over its back just before it tumbled into the widening hole's bottom.
Frederick officials were uncertain what caused the 30-foot deep sinkhole, which measured about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. The sinkhole occurred about 1 a.m. along a section of South Street at ramps to I-70 and across from a 700-acre limestone quarry on the city's east side.
Ernest E. Davis Jr., 22, was driving east on South Street when the sinkhole suddenly collapsed in front of him, police said. Mr. Davis was able to stop his car on the edge of the sinkhole and escaped by climbing over the back of the 1981 Malibu station wagon, police said. The car plunged into the hole a short time later.
Mr. Davis declined medical attention but collapsed a few minutes later, police said. He was in serious but stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Police said they believed he had suffered internal injuries, but no other information was available.
Sinkholes are depressions caused when underlying materials, such as limestone, dissolve or when underground structures such as caves or mines collapse.
"There's a lot of limestone in Frederick and Carroll counties," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, which was helping Frederick officials at the site.
A truck driver leaving the quarry noticed a depression in the road but could not stop Mr. Davis, said Jack Gease, director of real estate for Genstar Stone Products Co., which operates the quarry and concrete and blacktop plants.
Russ Castle, Frederick's supervisor of streets and parks, said workers were digging yesterday to locate the "pilot hole," the source of the sinkhole. Once located, the hole would be filled with boulders and concrete and the road resurfaced, he said.
Mr. Gease said company officials believe a ruptured water line may have caused the sinkhole. He said water service to a Genstar plant was interrupted two hours before the sinkhole occurred. He noted that a fire hydrant along South Street had been struck by vehicles twice in the past two weeks.
Detours were set up near the Genstar stone quarry and the I-70 ramps were closed. Ms. Edgar said the ramps would undergo safety inspections before being reopened.