The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky lost eight cars Wednesday morning when a massive 40 foot sinkhole tore through the foundation of the showroom swallowing eight cars inside of the museum’s Sky Dome. The sinkhole, which was about 40 feet wide and about 30 feet deep opened up around 5:30 A.M. CST.
The museum, which was constructed in 1994, houses over eighty different models of Chevrolet’s iconic Corvette, with some coming from the first production line in 1953. A video released by a security camera inside of the museum shows the exact moment when the sinkhole broke through the showcase floor, slowly swallowing the eight cars. The museum released a list of the cars which fell into the sinkhole, of which included a 1952 Black Corvette, and the 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette, which was the 1 millionth corvette produced at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant a mile away from the museum. Six of the cars were owned by the museum, while the other two were on loan from General Motors themselves. Museum staff and firefighters safely removed 20 more cars out of the museum until the structural integrity of the showroom could be confirmed safe.
While there has been no direct confirmation of what caused the sinkhole to break through the foundation of the showcase, Jason Polk, a professor of geology at Western Kentucky University explained that the sinkhole could have been caused by slowly expanding underground caves. Rain can also be attributed to the creation of sinkholes, as acidic rainwater can seep through the surface of the ground, eroding soil and sediments under the foundation. There have been a few engineers on at the National Corvette Museum trying to figure out what exactly caused the sinkhole, and if it is safe for anybody to go inside. The museums executive director Wendell Strode said that “the safety of the people working on the situation at the museum trumps any car that might be in danger.”
While sinkholes are a rare cause of death in the United States, there have been some instances where sinkholes were fatal. Last September a hunter in Missouri was found at the bottom of a 70 foot sinkhole after being reported missing. In Florida, there are an average of 17 sinkhole insurance claims taken out every day, Florida itself being very prone to sinkholes.
Although the National Corvette Museum has not yet released a monetary figure of damage done by the massive sinkhole, some of the cars on display at the museum were considered by many to be priceless. Bill Hume of the local Corvette Club in Louisville was shocked when he heard which cars had been damaged by the sinkhole. “I think anybody who has a Corvette was stunned when they heard that,” Hume explained. Many people could not believe that the sinkhole happened at the heart of the auto museum. Hume continued, “That just doesn’t happen in Kentucky and what a terrible place for it to happen.”
The General Motors production plant was not affected by the sinkhole, however they announced on their website that their Michigan plant will oversee repairs done on the cars that were damaged. Mark Reuss, Executive Vice President of General Motors Product Development said, “The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history.” He continued, “We want to ensure as many of the damaged cars are restored as possible so fans from around the world can enjoy them when the Museum reopens.” The National Corvette Museum brings in about 150,000 visitors each year. The Sky Dome will be shut down as the damage done by the sinkhole is assessed.
By Tyler Shibata