Driver ‘saved his son’, then he escaped as SUV was swallowed by sinkhole

19 March 2021 - 13:26 By aron hyman
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The SUV being lifted out of the sinkhole.
The SUV being lifted out of the sinkhole.
Image: Yusuf Abramjee/Twitter

The man whose SUV was photographed protruding from a sinkhole last weekend “saved” his nine-year-old son after the road suddenly collapsed, leaving them submerged in water and mud “in the blink of an eye”.

Henry Grimes’ lawyer, Corlia Bester from C Bester Inc Attorneys in Pretoria, told TimesLIVE that Heriot Drive in George, on which which her client was driving, was not cordoned off by the municipality after a burst water pipe caused havoc in the suburb of Genevafontein.

“Our client and his son were inside the vehicle when the sinkhole suddenly [and without warning] collapsed. Our client and his son [together with the vehicle] were submerged in the mud within the blink of an eye,” said Bester.

“Our client and his son, nine years of age, were in the vehicle when the horrific incident occurred. Both were able to escape the sinking vehicle and swim to safety. Our client saved his son, then he escaped from the vehicle.”

Last weekend the municipality urged residents to stay away from the burst pipe.

The pipe supplies the town’s main water treatment works and, because of the burst, the municipality was at the time unable to pump water to the facility’s holding dams.

Water gushed for several hours before engineers managed to close several valves.

Bester said neither Grimes nor his son appeared to have serious injuries but they were traumatised and were receiving professional assistance.

She said contrary to social media posts, the sinkhole was not present before the incident. She said Grimes’ version of events was backed by witness statements. Heriot Drive, in his version, was not cordoned off for traffic.

“Although there were traffic cones situated near the circle at the intersection between Heriot Drive and Stander Streets and approximately 200m from the corner of Bosduif Street and Heriot Street (the scene of the incident), such cones did not impede traffic nor did they cordon off the road,” said Bester.

“[Grimes] said the cones were placed as follows: one was situated right in the middle of the road, thus on the median between the lanes, and the second and third cones were placed all the way to the far left side of the road.”

She said none of the cones served as barriers and the road was not closed, which according to her, was evidenced by the fact that other road users passed through.

Bester alleged in an e-mailed statement that there were no warning signs on Heriot Drive regarding the broken mains pipe.

She said Grimes was considering his options, including enforcing his rights and possible claims against the relevant persons or authorities.

Bester said it would be premature to comment on the cause of the incident.

She said they had contacted the municipality in an attempt to resolve the matter “in an amicable manner”.

“At this stage, sadly, it appears that such attempt is in vain,” she said.

George municipality said earlier the driver was involved in “a traffic incident” and nobody was hurt.

Municipal spokesperson Chantèl Edwards-Klose said on Friday repairs to the water pipeline were completed and supply was restored at 100% capacity on Monday evening.

“The clearing of the site and reinstatement of the 450mm diameter storm water pipeline and the roadway started on March 16. The road should be reopened for vehicles by the end of Friday. However, the tar surface will only be finalised next week, weather permitting,” she said.  

“George municipality declines to comment with the regard to the driver of the vehicle.”


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