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Resident falls in sinkhole, suffers minor injuries

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By Calen McKinney

 

It happened in just a few seconds, but is something he will likely never forget.

It all started with yard work. Campbellsville resident Paul Harmon was mowing his yard and decided to use a chainsaw to cut some limbs off a tree near the edge of his property line on Lebanon Avenue.

"The next thing I know, I was going into the ground," he said. "Of course, at first, you don't know what's going on."

Harmon, who works in the School of Education at Campbellsville University, had fallen in a sinkhole. He was hanging onto the ground by his fingers and his shoulders were level with his grass.

Having read about recent incidents - and deaths - involving sinkholes, Harmon said he immediately knew what had happened to him.

He said he doesn't remember climbing out of the hole, but recalls that he got out almost as quickly as he fell in it.

Harmon said he found his chainsaw a few feet away and now realizes he must have thrown it as he was falling. He said he remembers believing that he was facing impending injury or even death.

"And the argument to that was, 'How deep am I gonna go?'"

Harmon said he believes adrenaline made him able to climb of the hole.

"I couldn't feel the bottom," he said. "I was hanging there. The next thing I know, I'm up on the ground."

After the fact, Harmon said he knows the hole was about 6 feet deep. And standing at about 6 feet tall, he said he was likely only inches from touching the bottom of the hole. Realizing that now, Harmon says that's somewhat comical.

But when he first fell, he said, he remembers thinking he would surely fall to the bottom and die.

After falling, Harmon walked into his home to find his wife, Jennifer. His family was home at the time, but Harmon was outside alone.

When he walked into his home, Harmon said, "My wife said, 'What happened? Did you fall in a sinkhole?'"

Harmon said her comment somewhat stole the surprise to his news.

Though Harmon wasn't severely injured in his fall, he was scratched and his knee began to swell. He said that made it difficult to walk.

"I was scratched head to toe," he said. "It was like being scratched with sandpaper all over you."

Harmon said he took a shower to get the gravel and dirt off his body and found rocks embedded in his skin.

Harmon said there were no signs that the sinkhole existed. And had he fallen into it while riding his lawnmower, or his children or wife having fallen into it, the situation could have ended very differently.

"It's just something you've got to laugh at - after it happens," he said. "It was a good scare. A good prank to play on somebody."

Since he fell into it, Harmon has covered the hole with a pallet to keep others from falling. He said he might fill it with gravel.

"It's just odd to see something like that in the middle of a yard," he said.

Having heard of sinkholes in the middle of fields and near ditches, Harmon said, he never thought one would be somewhere he walks on a regular basis.

"It was just like a booby trap," he said. "Theoretically, it could happen anywhere."

Harmon said he believes the hole was created by flowing water. He said he has checked the rest of his yard and hasn't found any other holes.

And now knowing there is a sinkhole in his yard, Harmon said he now questions whether the rumor of a cave system being underneath Lebanon Avenue is true.

"Other than that, what explanation is there?" he said. "It's obviously a feature of nature."

Harmon said he hasn't reported the sinkhole to anyone and doesn't know if he is supposed to. His concern centers on making the area safe, he said, and, to do the same, he recommends that those who live on Lebanon Avenue check their property for sinkholes.

Now that his experience is over, Harmon said, he wonders what could have happened had the sinkhole been much deeper or wider.

"Could they hear you?" he said. "How would they find you?"

Harmon, who isn't claustrophobic, said he didn't panic about being confined to a small space. But that doesn't mean the experience wasn't traumatic.

"Believe me though, it was frightening enough," he said. "I was never in any danger of death. I didn't defy death. It was just in my mind."