Bus stuck in sinkhole after water main break in Tempe

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
Credit: Tempe Police & Fire By Jennifer Thomas Credit: Tempe Police & Fire By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe police and fire personnel were on the scene of a large water main break in the area of Apache Boulevard and McClintock Drive on Wednesday.

A city bus got stuck in a sinkhole at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. The bus drove through a pool of water in the road then sank down and water started gushing out, according to police.

Twelve people including the driver were helped off the bus through a side window. One person was taken to a local hospital, but her injuries were minor.

There was severe flooding in the area. Aerial video showed some residents in their yards with buckets.

"There was kind of a moment of panic when we first realized how much flooding was going on," said Tanner Herring. When he stepped outside his home on Lemon Street around 10:15 a.m. and saw the flooding, he started gathering as many towels as he could find.

"We realized the water was actually rising and starting to get into our yard, so we started trying to block off the garage ... and tried to stop the water from getting through the door," he said.

As of about noon, City of Tempe's Water Department had all the valves shut off and had stopped the flow of water.

Two tow trucks were brought in to extricate the bus, but later a crane had to be called in to help lift the bus out of the hole. It was removed around 5 p.m.

Southbound McClintock Drive was closed at Don Carlos. Northbound McClintock was closed at Broadway Road.

Police said light rail traffic was not impacted by the water main break and trains were still in operation. However, vehicle traffic could be impacted for days due to repairs.

"These types of things just don't usually happen, so it obviously caused a significant amount of damage," said Tempe police spokesman Lt. Mike Pooley.

It is not yet known what caused the water main to break.

"Someone has got to take the blame; I just don't know who it is," said Ned Maleh, whose business was flooded. "I'm assuming probably the city."

Maleh's hookah bar and restaurant was under construction, with the grand opening scheduled for Oct. 1.

"I don't think that's going to happen anymore, honestly," he said. "It's probably going to be Nov. 1 if we're lucky."

About half of the rooms at the 30-plus-room, family-owned Paradise Motel were flooded with nearly 1 foot of water.

"Even in the rainy season, we don't have this much flood over here," owner Mit Rohit said. "And now suddenly because of the bus and the sinkhole, we got this whole building flooded. That's not good at all."

He said most of the furniture in those rooms will need to be replaced.

"It's really chaos," Maleh said. "There's just water everywhere."