Cars damaged after manhole cover blew away, but how?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Local residents are crying foul after a manhole cover that flew through the air and onto the road rendered their cars undriving.

Ryan Zrakovi said it happened on Sunday, January 23 at around 7:20 p.m. He and his girlfriend were celebrating a birthday and decided to go out of their way for some ice cream sandwiches. On the way back to her apartment, they hit something in the road, sending Zrakovi’s car flying into the air.

“It was dark, poorly lit, and we were going down the road when all of a sudden there was a manhole in the road that we hit,” he said. “I thought I had just had a flat tire. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll put the spare tire on. It’s good to go. After trying to put the spare tire in unsuccessfully, I looked underneath, in the wheel arch and everything else. That’s when I kind of realized it was way worse.

The cover, which belonged to 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 around 100 pounds, but can even weigh over 200 pounds.

“With a freak accident like this, you kind of get stuck in the water,” Zrakovi said. “The weight of that manhole itself, it takes a lot of force and pressure to get it out of the ground like that.”

When Zrakovi pulled to the side of the road to assess the damage, he said there was another driver who was also struggling with the effects of hitting the manhole cover.

“He destroyed two of his wheels and two of his tires, where there were pieces of his wheels on the road, and he was waiting for his tow truck to show up,” Zrakovi said.

Zrakovi’s car was also towed away. He also called the police, and an officer responded, followed by city maintenance workers.

“An officer showed up, and that’s when he said there was a manhole that wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and it seemed to have exploded, with concrete, shrapnel, stuff in its place,” Zrakovi said. “It’s a good thing I wasn’t on a two-wheeled motorbike because it would have been a lot worse, or if he had landed on someone when he landed where he landed.”

8News spoke with the City of Richmond Utilities Department on Thursday and learned there may be more to the story. A department spokesman said there was actually a third car involved, before either Zrakovi or the other driver arrived. This first driver is believed to have rounded the bend at N 18th Street at high speed and hit the manhole, causing the lid to fly. This car was reportedly left at the scene, but the driver was nowhere to be found.

8News has contacted the Richmond Police Department to confirm what happened and whether this driver has been located, but has not yet received a response.

Zrakovi is now waiting for the body shop where his car was towed to have the extent of the damage assessed. He said he also filed a claim with the city.

Despite extensive damage to a car Zrakovi said he only bought a few days earlier, he considers himself lucky the incident didn’t have a worse outcome.

Cars can be replaced,” he said. “So very lucky.”

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