A 4-foot-deep sinkhole that formed after a water main ruptured in an Escondido neighborhood Tuesday morning swallowed a car parked along the street, filling the car with muddy water that could be seen pouring from its windows.
Water flooded the streets, surrounding parked cars and even seeping into at least two homes, the city confirmed.
Resident Juan Martinez said water flooded his five bedroom home forcing him and his family to move out while repairs are made. He said they also have a newborn and a grandmother going through chemotherapy.
This was not the first instance of a water main break in the City of Escondido. Since September of 2017, NBC 7 has covered at least three water main breaks in the city.
Tuesday morning, the 12-inch asbestos cement pipe along the 500 block of West 7th Avenue ruptured for the second time in less than 2 years.
Chris McKinney, Director of Utilities for the city, told NBC 7 that Tuesday’s incident was impactful enough to move this particular line up the priority list for replacement.
McKinney also confirmed lines from previous breaks, like the one on Mary Lane at Beethoven Drive and San Pasqual Road at Ryan Drive, have been replaced.
“Those projects are hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Depending on the pipe line that you are replacing” McKinney explained.
The ordeal created a muddy mess for residents as they woke up for the day and left more than two dozen utility customers without water until at least 4 p.m.
As a part of the street buckled under the heavy, muddy water, a sinkhole formed. A black sedan parked near the sinkhole rolled into the dent in the street. The car wound up with its front bumper down inside the sinkhole, its rear sticking straight into the air.
It was a wild sight for residents.
“The car that was flipped over at the corner of the street – that’s pretty bad,” a neighbor told NBC 7.
Just after 6 a.m., a tow truck was hitching the car and working to pull it out of the sinkhole. As the car was removed, brown water could be seen and heard gushing from its windows.
NBC 7 spoke with the owner of the car – 16-year-old Linsey Cervantes – who, understandably, was shocked. The teenager had recently gotten the car for her birthday. One minute it was parked on the street, the next, it was inside the sinkhole.
“At first, I just didn’t know how to feel,” Cervantes told NBC 7. “I came outside, I saw what was going on and when I came out, (my car) was just like this.”
Cervantes said the car’s alarm was going off – without sound, just vibrating. She and her mom were able to grab insurance papers, her school ID card and other belongings out of the car before it flooded.
After that, although Cervantes said the car looked stable, she said police told her not to get near it because the sinkhole was deep.
Then, it happened.
“At first when I just saw it be lifted just a little from the back, I was like, ‘What the heck? What’s going to happen?’ After time, it just kept going up and it was like just almost half-way down. I actually thought it was going to flip, but it didn’t,” the teen added.
Meanwhile, other residents of West 7th Avenue also had major clean-up to do, including a family who said their house was flooded by water from the broken main.
A woman who has lived in the area with her family for the past 19 years told NBC 7 water crept into her home, making its way into her living room, kitchen and even the bedrooms.
“We don’t really know what’s going on but there’s water all over our house,” she told NBC 7, adding that she planned to take photos of the damage so that she could document the incident and file an insurance claim.
“It’s a disaster; I don’t know how this happened,” she added.
Juan Martinez, who also lives in the area, said water flooded all five rooms of his home. He and his family were evacuated and he doesn't know when they'll be able to return. He said he has a newborn and a grandmother going through chemotherapy.
It wasn't the first time water flooded their neighborhood. Neighbor Marie Martinez shared photos with NBC 7 of muddy waters outside her home on the same block of W. 7th Avenue, just feet from Tuesday's break, on July 22, 2018.
The photos showed a large hole steps from her driveway. Water was strewn across the street and had even seeped into their front yard, pushing mud along with it.
The woman’s daughter said construction had been going on at the corner of the street, but they weren’t sure if that had anything to do with the water main break.
She said the morning had been much more eventful than usual.
“I just thought I was going to wake up and go to school, but I woke up to this, and now I have to clean and make sure (everything’s good),” she explained.
Escondido’s water department, firefighters and police were at the scene investigating the water main break, trying to keep the area safe.
By 7:45 a.m., crews with the city water department said they had been able to reduce the flow coming from the broken pipe but were still working to completely shut off the water.
Officals said once the leak was capped, repairs would take about five hours. The roadway was not likely to be re-opened until 8 p.m.
Crews said the sinkhole was at least 4 feet deep but because it was filled with water, it may be even deeper than it looks.