At 5:25 PM Ocala Fire Rescue was dispatched to Shady Oaks Shopping Center (2407 SW 27th Ave.), where water a rescue was requested. Engine #4 arrived to a flooded parking lot with approximately fifteen vehicles submerged under water, to various degrees. Upon inspection, at least five vehicles were found to have water in their interior compartments. As crews aided civilians found within their vehicles to higher ground, a call regarding a sinkhole was reported.
At 5:38 PM Tower #1, who was driving on SR200, was flagged down by bystanders to a Checkers restaurant located in Gaitway Plaza (2701 SW College Rd.). Firefighters pulled in to the site of a sinkhole which was in the process of claiming a vehicle. The couple inside the car was able to exit rapidly, escaping the incident without injury. The sinkhole, however, continued to grow to approximately 20 ft. in depth and width; puncturing a gas line in the process.
Taking precautions to protect the public from the potential hazard the gas leak and the sinkhole posed, stores adjacent to the site were evacuated; a road block was also requested. State Road 200 (SR200) was closed between SW 27th Ave. and SW 26th St. Once the gas line was secured by TECO gas company, and the perimeter around the sinkhole was deemed stable, the road block was removed. Ocala Fire Rescue units remained on scene to assist with crowd control; with the last unit clearing at 8:45 PM.
Neither incident resulted in injuries being reported.
Contact: Ashley Lopez, Public Information Officer