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Sinkhole swallows excavator

A piece of excavating equipment and its operator fell into a 9-feet-deep sinkhole while work was being done on the city’s sewer system Thursday.

Construction workers were attempting to repair a sewer line on Railroad Street at

Sixth Street in Ironton when the pavement gave way and the equipment fell.

Teddy Bamer, a 20 year employee of Southern Ohio Trenching and Excavating, was operating the equipment when the incident occurred.

“I just fell in the hole,” Bamer said.

“Something like that is just like a car wreck. It happens so fast and then it’s over.” The man was not injured in the incident.

Southern Ohio Excavating is a subcontractor of Reynolds Inliner, which has been contracted for the city’s $12 million sewer re-lining project.

Sixth, Seventh and Eighth streets at Railroad were already closed to traffic because of relining work being done in the area.

The sewer pipes under the road were not functioning and a temporary bypass pipe had been set up to service the areas of Indian Hills and the area of the high school.

The excavator had not even broken through the concrete to make the repair when it fell into the sinkhole around 11 a.m. Thursday.

Mayor Rich Blankenship lives on Railroad Street and saw the incident happen.

He said the sinkhole is indicative of a citywide problem with the sewer system.

“This is the condition of a lot of our sewers in town,” Blankenship said. “They’re 100 years old and they’ve run their course.”

John Haskins, superintendent of wastewater for the city, agreed.

“Our sewers are so bad they have the ability to create sinkholes everywhere,” he said.

The city is in the middle of a rehabilitation project for its manholes and sewer lines. Blankenship said the work is much needed.

“Once it’s over we’re going to have a whole new sewer line,” Blankenship said. “It’s better to fix it now than wait.”

He said the project is important to the city.

“I know it’s an inconvenience for people to drive around but it’s very important and we have to fix this,” Blankenship said.