An environmental services company faced one of their toughest and most unique challenges last year: rescuing Corvettes from a sinkhole

There may be only one thing more disheartening for a fan of classic Corvettes than seeing museum-quality cars lying on the bottom of a sinkhole — that’s not seeing them on the bottom of that sinkhole because they’re covered in dirt and rubble.

That’s just what happened on Feb. 12, 2014, at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, when the floor of the museum’s Skydome and eight Corvettes disappeared in a sinkhole 40 feet wide and 40 feet deep. Local general contractor Scott, Murphy & Daniel was retained to respond and recover the most easily accessible cars by crane following removal of several building roof panels. The museum is located less than 2 miles from hydroexcavation service specialist TPM Group.

“While the first five cars were visible, three were buried and lost,” says TPM President Eddie Hanks. “I called Mike Murphy, the construction manager, and told him that we could uncover the missing cars with our hydroexcavator. I even demonstrated our hydroexcavation capability by bringing in my own 1984 Corvette, dumping a pile of dirt on it with a front-end loader and safely removing it with the hydroexcavator. They said that they had tried hiring a hydroexcavation contractor and that the machines wouldn’t be effective at 40 feet. I told them we could do it.”

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TPM crews prepared by fitting their Guzzler with a vertical hard, smooth-walled pipe, secured to the side of the sinkhole to help overcome the static resistance of a 40-foot pull. Crews used hydraulic man lifts available on site to direct the vacuum pipe.

“We were able to pull out enough soil to find two of the missing cars so that a mechanical long stick excavator could be used to dig around them,” Hanks says. “They were then lifted to safety by a crane.”

The story also ended well for the museum. “All of the cars were recovered, and we received amazing worldwide publicity from the sinkhole,” says museum communications manager Katie Frassinelli. “We had record attendance in 2014.”

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Read more about TPM Group in the September issue.

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