Driver escaped sinkhole, Ottawa Co. road closed

Posted at 12:19 PM, Mar 01, 2017
148th Avenue in Spring Lake Twp. - from Ottawa Co. Sheriff

148th Avenue in Spring Lake Twp. – from Ottawa Co. Sheriff

SPRING LAKE TWP., Mich. — 148th Avenue just north of M-104 in Spring Lake Township is closed after a sinkhole took out a large chunk of the roadway.

A driver on his way to work who was stuck in it tells FOX 17 he gripped his steering wheel tightly for five minutes while he was sinking, waiting for help.

The Ottawa County road will be closed for one to two weeks, according to Ryan Kemppainen, operations superintendent with the Ottawa County Road Commission. Both water and sewer lines will need to be replaced.

"My normal morning went right out the window!" Doug Baughan told FOX 17 Wednesday, after he hit what he says was a two-foot pothole on his morning commute.

Baughan says he was driving in the southbound lane of 148th Avenue before 6 a.m. Wednesday when his Jeep Wrangler, in his words, almost "launched" off the road.

“It almost felt like I was a Hot Wheel going down, and all of a sudden it did a jump," he said.

After driving past the pothole, Baughan turned around at The Corner Market on M-104, called 911, then drove back to shine his headlights on the hole through the dark fog to warn others.

"There's other people out there driving small cars that time of the morning and I had to do something," said Baughan.

Then about thirty minutes later, Baughan says, "I knew I'd sunk, and I sunk far," said Baughan. "My headlights weren't shining down the road no more, they were shining upward."

"I just sat there and hung onto that steering wheel as hard as I could. It got the ol' ticker going," he laughed with relief.

That pothole grew to a 20-foot by 15-foot sinkhole that's 10 feet deep. It almost swallowed Baughan's car after he escaped it. By that time, police had arrived.

"When [the tow truck] pulled [my car] out, I went and looked at the hole and, wow!" he said. "It's a lot bigger than what it looked like from the car!"

Crews immediately shut down 148th Avenue at M-104 after the southbound lane and part of the northbound lane caved in.

Kemppainen says the corrugated metal culvert failed, likely due to rust and heavy rains Tuesday. That culvert was placed there in the mid-70s, he said.

Other portions of the road, including the nearby bike trail, are believed to be in jeopardy of collapsing as well.

As for Baughan, he's taking the long way home and asks others to help in a situation like this.

“My word to everybody: if something don’t look right in the road, avoid it and call somebody," he said.