Sinkhole traps Metro bus at University Heights intersection

Repairs may take up to a month, MSD says

Watch a Metro bus fall into the sinkhole. Click on the first video in the player above.

CINCINNATI -- It took 101 years to break and it could take a month to repair.

MSD officials said a 101-year-old sewer line broke and created a massive sinkhole that almost swallowed a Metro bus in University Heights Thursday night.

Onboard cameras captured the exact moment the street collapsed and caused the back of the bus to drop into the hole.


 Click the photo for more pictures Terry Helmer | WCPO

The sinkhole – about 15 feet long and wide and 20 feet deep in some places - left crews dealing with a mess of collapsed concrete, raw sewage and broken sewer pipes Friday.

Some people at the site were calling it a "stinkhole" because of the foul smell of excrement that filled the area Friday morning.

"The street is cracking!" one frightened neighbor exclaimed. "That hole right there -- that is bigger than any hole I've ever seen in my entire life!"


 Jason Law | WCPO

The bus – with only the driver onboard – was traveling through the intersection of Vine and Shield streets  -- next to University of Cincinnati Medical Center and behind the Cincinnati Zoo – when the street caved in and the back of the bus sank.

The driver was not hurt and was back on the job Friday, a Metro spokesperson said. Metro would not release her name.

WATCH: See more video in the player above

It took two tow trucks to lift the 26,000-pound bus from both ends and pull the bus out of the hole.

MSD officials said crews had been repairing 100-year-old sewer lines Thursday. A 21-inch clay pipe runs 37 feet under the street, said Dave Rieman, an MSD inspector.

Workers had finished for the day and left the road open, and it gave way under the weight of the bus.

"We believe that the 21-inch sewer pipe collapsed or at least has a big hole in it, creating a void which caused the cave-in." Rieman said.

Exclusive aerial view of the sinkhole from Chopper 9.

"We maintain thousands of miles of collection system within our sewer district and it is very unusual -- highly unlikely -- for something like this to happen," said MSD Deputy Director MaryLynn Lodor.

But a lot of clay pipes in the MSD system have outlived their typical lifespan.

The clay pipe that broke was installed in 1913 and gradually disintegrated, leaving the sewage to go where it wanted to go.

"It just starts eating away, eating away, eating away and eventually it creates a big enough void where everything falls down," Rieman said.

While MSD crews pumped out the sewage, city crews were at work building a large, circular steel frame to lower into the hole to give workers protection from a possible cave-in as they dig down to the break.

A mix of concrete and fly ash was poured into the hole to stabilize the area.

Eventually, the smell subsided.

"We could sense the smell when we went close to the hole," said a resident, Sri Sista, "but not really the neighborhood I'm in.  I live right beside the hole and I really don't smell anything."

Neighbors said the sinkhole stirred up fears about where they live.

“They need to redo the whole foundation - the whole street, the pipes and everything - because this is unsafe," Tawanda Seldon said.

"What if somebody was sitting on that bus other than just the bus driver? It can happen at my house. It could be my house.

"I can't imagine me being on the bus then it going into the ground."

"It was kind of scary," Sista said, "but then it was also exciting to see everybody around it."

WCPO's Zac Pitts and Jason Law contributed to this report.

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