DOVER, Ohio — State and federal experts were examining the site of a massive sinkhole on Thursday, trying to determine what caused it and how it can be repaired.
The collapse happened along State Highway 516 just west of Dover. It took the westbound lane of the two-lane highway with it into a lake from which a family owned asphalt company has been dredging sand and gravel for years.
Some estimate the size of the gaping hole as big as several football fields wide.
The site attracted dozens of spectators on Thursday who could hardly describe what they were seeing.
“I’m not sure what to make of it. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” said Jennifer Smith of Dover, who was there with her young daughter and husband, Jesse, who was worried that the hole might grow even larger.
The collapse happened in a matter of moments at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Workers from Newton Asphalt who were dredging in the lake at the time immediately radioed to their office that traffic needed to be stopped before someone drove into the hole.
“It puts chills in your back when you think of what might have happened,” said Terry Biglow of New Philadelphia who came to see the sight.
The nearest resident to the massive hole, Lou Wendling, says he drove over that part of the highway just minutes before the collapse.
Wendling says the road is used by a school bus that makes its rounds about the exact same time as the collapse every afternoon. Workers from the asphalt company turned the bus around.
“It’s a blessing that it happened when it did, not in the middle of the night with people traveling this road after hours and dark, you’d never see that,” said Wendling.
Jeff Gessner of Newton Asphalt gave a statement on Thursday saying, “We are very thankful there were no injuries. We are also proud of our team for taking control of the situation to not put anybody in danger. The cause has yet to be determined.”
Ohio Department of Transportation Spokesperson Becky Giaque told FOX 8 News on Thursday that the road “would probably be closed for quite some time.”
Giaque says that the winter months and other challenges would likely prevent anything from being done until possibly springtime.
“We do not want to give anyone any false hope that it will be reopening any time soon,” said Giaque. “It’s a big deal and will require a big fix.”
“You’ve got a big factory out at Case Farms and there’s a lot of traffic. They have two shifts, there are shops are out here, it’s a well-used road,” said Wendling, whose trip into Dover will be rerouted an extra couple of miles.
“This is a main road between Millersburg and back in Dover,” concluded Jesse Smith. “They need to get it fixed as best they can and get this road back open.”