Illinois Sinkhole Swallows Golfer, Who Describes 'Freefalling' Into 'Darkness'

  on March 12 2013 6:26 PM

Less than two weeks after a Florida sinkhole pulled a man out of his bed and beneath the earth’s surface, a golfer in Illinois narrowly escaped a similar fate. On Friday, while teeing off with friends on the Annbriar golf course in Waterloo, Mark Mihal suddenly found himself nearly 20 feet underground.

The mortgage broker slipped into a small enclosure that led to a mud pit 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I was standing in the middle of the fairway,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was underground.”

Mihal was rescued within 20 minutes by fellow golfers and course employees, who used a rope and ladder to pull him out of the sinkhole. A friend handed him the rope around his waist, since he dislocated his shoulder in the steep fall.

“It didn’t look unstable,” Mihal told the Associated Press. “And then I was gone. I was just freefalling. It felt like forever, but it was just a second or two, and I didn’t know I was going to hit. And all I saw was darkness.”

The golfer was much luckier than Florida victim Jeffrey Bush, whose body still hasn’t been recovered.

“That certainly went through my mind when I was down there,” Mihal said. “It looked like it was more to go down (in the hole). I wasn’t too happy to be in there.”

A similar event happened this week in North Naples, Fla. A congregation was forced to abandon its church because a sinkhole is slowly swallowing the building. Walls have cracked and, as NBC-2 reported, a landscaper fell in.

“It’s just not safe anymore,” said Faith Community Church Pastor Roy Shuck. “It’s devastating, because people have poured their life into this property.”

Despite the rash of sinkholes making headlines of late, there doesn’t appear to be a pandemic on hand. The geological event is caused by a variety of factors but become especially dangerous when natural earth movements coincide with man-made factors that erode the ground’s foundation.

Both Florida and areas of the Midwest are situated upon a limestone bedrock, making then more vulnerable.

“It’s a gradual process that creates a void in the soil,” geologist Philip Moss told the Post-Dispatch. “Over time, (the void) migrates upward through the soil to where the soil arch gets too thin to support the weight of what’s over it, and it collapses.

“This guy was really just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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