Local News

Durham man rescued after driving into large sinkhole

Posted August 1, 2016 6:59 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2016 6:59 p.m. EDT

— A Durham man and father of three said he thought he was going to die when he mistakenly drove into a massive weather-related sinkhole on Glenn Road in Durham on Sunday night.

Robert Belcher said he thought he saw water on the road and assumed it was a puddle. He slowed to cross it.

"It was not a puddle, but I didn't know until I was in it. My truck had already went down and it started flipping," Belcher said.

Authorities shut down a portion of Glenn Road between Club Boulevard and Bundy Avenue around 10 p.m. to steer traffic away from the large sinkhole, which stretches from one side of the road to the other and is estimated to be 10 to 15 feet deep.

Javier Rosales saw Belcher's crash. He was in the area because he had also hit the sinkhole.

"When I tried to stop it was too late," Rosales said. "I bumped my tires and my axle flew out."

But Rosales said the sinkhole grew in the few minutes between the two accidents. Belcher's car fell into the hole and was swept away by rushing water.

I just told God, 'God don't let me die like this,'" Belcher said before he started to fight.

He was unable to open his car door, but worked to break the windshield.

"I just kept punching it and finally it broke through," Belcher said.

He was able to escape and held on to a tree limb until EMS crews arrived. While he is in a lot of pain from his injuries, he said he is very happy to be alive.

"I looked at it as I want to live. I got a family," he said.

Belcher has a swollen eye, a broken ankle and bruises over his body.

Officials say the road will likely remain closed through mid to late-September. Drivers should take Glenn Road to East Club Boulevard to access I-85 North to Red Mill Road.

The sinkhole was caused by too much rushing water in the creek beneath Glenn Road. According to officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, flash flooding overwhelmed a 72 inch pipe under the road. The pipe will need to be replaced by bridge repair crews before the road can reopen.

Several vehicles were affected by the sinkhole, and one driver had to be rescued from his SUV when he drove into the hole. The driver was pulled from his car and transported to WakeMed with non-life threatening injuries.

Other accidents occurred at the site when drivers slammed on their breaks to avoid flood water and the hole, but no one else was injured.