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Man's Claim He Fell Into Sinkhole Playing Football is Under Investigation

By Murray Weiss | April 18, 2014 6:52am
 A Bronx man claims he was playing football and swallowed by a sinkhole, but authorities have their suspicions. 
A Bronx man claims he was playing football and swallowed by a sinkhole, but authorities have their suspicions.  
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Jabbari Douglas

THE BRONX — Talk about a fall guy.

Investigators from several city agencies are trying to get to the bottom of how a man wound up in a large sinkhole on a Wakefield street this week.

This Bronx tale began on Monday about 1:30 p.m. when a 6-foot section of the road suddenly collapsed into a 5-foot-deep hole large enough to swallow a medium-sized car in front of 658 E. 234th St.

Jabbari Douglas, 17, said he was standing outside his home when he suddenly heard the ground collapse and heard the sound of someone yelling for help.

“I heard this very loud dropping noise, of the street going down,” said Douglas, a student at nearby East Bronx Academy. 

People gathered around the pit, marveling at the sudden sinkhole and several called 911 and 311 to alert authorities.

Inside the pit was a 23-year-old man, whose identity is being withheld by DNAinfo. He was screaming in pain and yelling for medical aid.

“My leg! My leg!” he howled, according to witnesses.

His screams grew even more piercing when arriving paramedics tried to carefully lift him out of the hole before he was whisked to Jacobi Hospital to be treated, witnesses said.

Authorities say the man told them he was playing in a touch football game, had just caught a pass and was turning to run toward the goal line when the road opened, sending him hurtling into the hole.

A couple of the man's pals supported his story, but his account is being questioned because several other witnesses stepped forward telling firefighters and police a very different version of events.

Two of these witnesses talked to “On The Inside.” They said the man did not topple into the void.

“He was sitting on a porch with some other guys and they started horsing around,” a young woman told “On The Inside.”

“He started rolling around next to the hole and they were actually videoing it with his iPad.”

She claimed that the sound of the fire truck sirens prompted the young man to start “yelling in extremely agitated pain and then he climbed down into the hole, screaming,  ‘My leg. My leg ... someone get my football.’”

A middle-aged woman who also witnessed the incident said the young man and his pals were directing traffic around the hole before he decided to get into it.

“He was standing next to a car saying he was hurt, but then when he heard the sirens he put one leg into the hole, and then another, and then suddenly he was into covering himself with dust,” she said, saying she did not want her name used for fear of retribution.

“When firefighters took him out, he was yelling and screaming, but it was an act,” she added.

Sources say the NYPD received at least one 911 call in which a resident reported the pavement collapse, but also that "the man put himself in the hole, he did not fall in."

The man told paramedics he had a "leg injury." He was taken by ambulance to  Jacobi Hospital, but sources say the hospital has no record of treating him.

Fire marshals and police are investigating the episode.

Attempts to reach the man were not successful.

Meanwhile, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection determined the sinkhole resulted from a busted sewer line that it has subsquently replaced along with the roadbed and pavement, according to spokeman Chris Gilbride.