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January 22, 2008

Murray man falls into sinkhole

Steve Johnson walked out of his Murray County home in the dark and literally stepped off the edge of the earth.

A sinkhole, 20 to 25 feet deep and nearly 15 feet wide, seemed to appear out of nowhere in the yard of his home, located at 10 Forest Hills Drive in northern Murray County.

Johnson was about to get into his truck when he was swallowed into the hole around 7:16 a.m., according to Murray County Fire Chief Dewayne Bain.

“On one end, the deep end, it had water,” Bain said. “Where he fell in it opened up into a cavern and he went into the water.”

Johnson was able to set off his truck alarm using his keyless remote to get his family’s attention. No one was able to get him out, so the Murray County Fire Department was called. Eventually, Johnson was able to crawl out on his own after firefighters put a ladder down the sinkhole.

“We had people suited up to go in and get him if he couldn’t come out on his own,” Bain said.

He was in the hole for about an hour and half, Bain said.

“It’s the darndest thing I’ve ever seen,” Bain said.

Johnson was taken to Hamilton Medical Center with three broken ribs and a broken collar bone, Bain said. Phone calls to Johnson’s home were not immediately returned.

Winfrey Maddron, who lives across the street, said he had never noticed a hole in the man’s yard. His family farmed the land before it was developed, he said.

“Used to be a long time ago there wasn’t a house or home on that land,” Maddron said.

Sinkholes are a natural phenomenon that occur when a large amount of water dissolves the limestone underground, said Sandra Robertson, a geologist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

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