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Police: Storm Drain Caused Car-Swallowing Sinkhole

Chris Squier
90.5 WESA

UPDATE (4:26 p.m. Wednesday): PennDOT Says McKnight Road Not at Risk

Work to repair a sinkhole nearly 40 feet long and 10 feet wide is underway in Ross Township.

The sinkhole opened in front of Hollywood Tans salon right off of McKnight Road Tuesday, swallowing a car – and almost its passenger, Natalie Huddleston of Shaler Township. She was not injured.

According to Steve Cowan, PennDOT district press officer, the sinkhole does not pose any danger to the state-maintained McKnight Road, which is about 15 feet from the edge of the sinkhole.

“Our crews have been out inspecting the situation,” Cowan said. “They have found no undermining on McKnight Road; however we will continue to evaluate the situation.”

The sinkhole was caused by the collapse of a four to five foot storm drain carrying an underwater stream, according to police.

The storm pipes are on private property, leaving the responsibility of their maintenance to the business owners, according to township officials.

Ken Wunderlin, the regional manager of G&G Fitness Equipment, said his business is starting construction soon to fix its section of the pipes.

“We know that other businesses have had to deal with it, too, all the way down from our end from the North End here to the North Hills Village and a lot of places in between – Wendy’s, the Bed, Bath and Beyond, the new Get Go when they went in,” he said. “It’s a hefty repair, they have to actually dig up your whole parking lot.”

The township told him that pretty much everyone along the road will have to take care of the pipe as it starts to collapse - probably in the near future.

“It’s not an inexpensive repair, though,” he said. “The lowest price I’ve gotten to be able to come in and dig it up and fix it right is about $40,000 and up to as much as $70,000 to do that same job.”

He said the township also told him that even after his business’s pipes are fixed, the connections to the old pipe could cause drainage issues in the future.

But Cowan doesn’t believe this is something that will affect McKnight Road.

“The portion of earth underneath the roadway is not giving way at this point, where the piping is,” Cowan said.

UPDATE (10:30 a.m. Wednesday): Crews Making Repairs After Pipes Collapse

Police say a sinkhole that swallowed a woman's car as she left a Pittsburgh-area tanning salon was caused by a four- to five-foot wide storm drain that carries an underwater stream beneath the salon's parking lot.

Ross Township police say the collapsing pipes are the responsibility of private property owners. The building's owners haven't commented on the issue.

But the motorist trapped in the sinking car, 49-year-old Natalie Huddleston, of Shaler Township, says the owner of Hollywood Tans helped her escape as her car slipped backward into the sinkhole about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Shop owner Lisa Masley says Huddleston "put down her driver's side window and I pulled her out."

Crews were working to repair the pipes Wednesday along McKnight Road, a busy red-light district in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs.

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Original Post: Large Sinkhole Swallows Car Parked Outside McKnight Road Tanning Salon

A sudden sinkhole has swallowed a car that was in the parking lot of a Pittsburgh-area tanning salon. The owner of the business helped rescue the driver, but the entire car vanished underwater within minutes.

The unidentified driver of the car told TV station KDKA that "I'm in shock, this is not happening, my car is gone."

The incident happened just after 4 p.m. Tuesday. Emergency crews have shut down southbound portions of McKnight Road, a busy area full of malls and other businesses.

The Hollywood Tans business has been evacuated, but no injuries have been reported. There were heavy rains in the area before the sinkhole appeared, but it's not yet known if they contributed to the problem.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.