EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A car was completely submerged in a massive sinkhole in East Saint Louis on the 4th of July.
On Saturday, a group of citizens returned to the site to have a wider discussion about the city's infrastructure.
The hole on North 32nd Street was blocked off and had been filled with gravel by Illinois American Water, according to a city spokesperson.
Darius Edwards, who had stepped away from the car, told 5 On Your Side he was lucky to have his life.
"It kind of traumatized my fiancé and it kind of ruined our 4th of July. Anyone could have been hurt, people sit here every day probably getting groceries out of the car. Anything. Children in the car.”
Illinois American Water, responsible for the city’s water system, acknowledged what could have happened and how they responded, saying “this was a rare, unfortunate incident." They did not mention how they would move forward.
Read the full statement:
On Monday, July 4, we received a phone call from the East St. Louis Police Department about a car that had fallen into a hole in the street in front of this home. Unknown to us at the time, there was a water main break, under the street, directly in front of the home and underneath the car. We were not aware of this leak yet because water had not surfaced onto the ground or street. Unknowingly, a car had parked on the street directly above the out-of-sight water main break. Due to the impact of water below the street, and the weight of the car, the street buckled and the car fell into an opening.
The car was parked. No one was in the car. Fortunately, no one was injured. Apparently, the driver was inside a nearby home.
Our employees immediately went to the scene. A towing company was called. The car was lifted from the hole and the car was taken to a local towing company.
We worked with the towing company and tracked down the owner of the car. The car’s owner was relieved that we found her and explained to her what had happened. This week, the car’s owner has been working closely with our insurance company on fixing or replacing the car.
This was a rare, unfortunate incident. We are extremely pleased and relieved that no one was in the car, and no one was injured.
Illinois American Water
Metro East Organizing Coalition and Empire 13, grassroots organizations that have been very local about the city’s restoration and history this summer, called for action on the infrastructure issues community members said have plagued their neighborhoods for decades.
"Companies will readily come, like you see the gravel in there. But the street is still not repaired. Then it will sit like this for months and years," said Dr. Larita Rice-Barnes, executive director of the Metro East Organizing Coalition.
The response from the water company was much different from what citizens wanted to hear.
"To make sure that they have people in place, that are going to monitor our streets. That are going to fix the streets. That are not going to let them sit like this," Rice-Barnes said.
"The state and the federal government have to address environmental racism," said JD Dixson with Empire 13. "From Belleville to Illinois you see it. You go up to Belleville and there are manicured lines and streets that are even, Evenly paved. No potholes."
5 On Your Side received the following response from Mayor Robert Eastern III’s office:
“As the mayor of this great city, E. St. Louis, we are also concerned with the water main break in our community.
"While failing water mains are unpredictable and common, American Water has been an excellent corporate citizen. We are confident that the company is working to ensure the repairs and resolution of all impacted citizens.”