RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Local residents are crying foul after a manhole cover that somehow flew into the air and into the road left their cars undrivable.
Ryan Zrakovi said it happened on Sunday, Jan. 23, around 7:20 p.m. He and his girlfriend were celebrating an anniversary, and decided to go out of their way for ice cream sandwiches. On their way back to her apartment, they hit something in the road, sending Zrakovi’s car airborne.
“Dark out, poorly lit, and we were coming down the road when, all of a sudden, there’s a manhole in the road that we hit,” he said. “I thought I just had a flat tire. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll put the spare tire on. Good to go.’ After trying to put the spare tire on with no success, I looked underneath, in the wheel well and everything else. That’s when I kind of realized it’s a lot worse.”
The cover, which belonged on a nearby manhole in the grass median at N 18th Street and Balding Street, somehow ended up in the left lane of Oliver Hill Way (Route 360). Manhole covers often weigh about 100 lbs., but can even weigh more than 200 lbs.
“With a freak accident like this, you’re kind of stuck in the water,” Zrakovi said. “The weight of that manhole itself, it takes a lot of force and pressure in order for it to come up out of the ground like that.”
When Zrakovi pulled over on the side of the road to asses the damage, he said there was another driver who was also dealing with the effects of hitting the manhole cover.
“He destroyed two of his wheels and two of his tires, to where there were chunks of his wheels in the road, and he was waiting for his tow truck to show up,” Zrakovi said.
Zrakovi’s car ended up being towed, as well. He also called police, and an officer responded, following by city maintenance workers.
“An officer showed up, and that’s when he said that there was a manhole that wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and that it appeared to have exploded, with concrete, shrapnel, stuff around where it belongs,” Zrakovi said. “Good thing I wasn’t on a motorcycle with two wheels because it would’ve been a lot worse, or if it had landed on somebody when it landed where it landed.”
8News spoke with the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities on Thursday, and learned that there could be more to the story. A spokesperson for the department said that there was actually a third car involved, before Zrakovi or the other driver arrived. That first driver is believed to have come around the turn at N 18th Street at a high rate of speed, and hit the manhole, causing the cover to go flying. That car was reportedly left on the scene, but the driver was nowhere to be found.
8News reached out to the Richmond Police Department to confirm what happened, and whether that driver has been located, but has not yet received a response.
Zrakovi is now waiting to hear from the body shop where his car was towed have the extent of the damage evaluated. He said he has also filed a claim with the city for compensation.
Despite the significant damage to a car that Zrakovi said he had only just purchased a few days prior, he considers himself lucky that the incident didn’t have a worse outcome.
“Cars can be replaced,” he said. “So very lucky.”