SUV, driver nearly swallowed by 30-foot sinkhole in Lafayette

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - A massive sinkhole suddenly opened up on a street in Lafayette on Monday morning, collapsing into an old mine shaft and nearly swallowing an SUV.

The 30-foot by 15-foot hole on East Cleveland Street near Foote Avenue is between 15 and 20 feet deep and partially filled with water. 

A man who lives in the area had an extremely close call when his car almost fell in early this morning.

"In the moment, my truck was almost on top of me," said Lafayette resident Aurelio Zambrano. 

Zambrano's white Jeep was trapped on the edge of the massive sinkhole.

Holding back tears, Zambrano told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart he kept thinking of his wife and three daughters during the ordeal.

"I was scared because I was thinking, I'm going inside the hole with my truck," said Zambrano.

He quickly called police as the gap seemed to be growing.

"The problem is the bottom -- it was still open and then I heard water in the bottom," Zambrano said.

Eventually, rescuers threw Zambrano a rope. While his legs were temporarily numb from fear, he climbed to safety.

When paramedics first treated Zambrano, they said his blood pressure was high, but once he had a chance to calm down his numbers improved.

"All I could see that was holding him up was the front bumper and the back bumper," said neighbor Donna Carbone. Both of the tires were in the hole, there was no pavement. He was as calm as calm could be. Of course, you're sitting there and you don’t want to be jumping around, just in case."

The sinkhole developed above old mine shafts from the Simpson Coal Mine, 7NEWS confirmed.

Lafayette spokeswoman Debbie Wilmot says the Simpson Coal Mine operated from 1888-1926.

"Typically this type of subsidence is caused by the collapse of underground mine tunnels or shafts.  Over time, layers of rock and earth naturally tend to sink or shift to fill voids," Wilmot wrote.

Officials with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety say the sinkhole will take a few months to fix. It will be filled in the meantime, but drivers will not be allowed to pass over the hole.

For now, the City of Lafayette says the road will be closed in both directions. Work scheduled to begin on Wednesday will allow Cleveland Street to be reopened to eastbound traffic, but it will continue to be blocked to westbound traffic between Foote Avenue and Brown Court until the road is fully repaired and tested for stability. The work may take two or three months.

Xcel Energy also says a gas line was exposed when the hole collapsed, but so far they've detected no leaks. 

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