While sinkholes are common in Florida, sinkholes that swallow people are not. Below are some notable incidents in the past half century.
April 9, 2011
Johnn Clyde Smith, 52, an experienced well driller, dies after a sinkhole opens beneath him and his truck falls on top of him. Smith was drilling near Trenton, in North Florida. The sides of the 35-foot sinkhole kept collapsing, making recovery of the body difficult. Smith was buried under five feet of dirt.
March 28, 2011
Carla Chapman, 47, falls into a sinkhole in her back yard in Plant City. She uses her cell phone to call for help. Inside the hole, she has difficulty breathing, choking on sand and mud. She is in the hole, about 2 feet wide and 5 feet deep, at least 25 minutes before a police officer pulls her out. This is not the first time Chapman has plummeted into the earth. A year earlier, she was swallowed by another sinkhole in her back yard, immobilizing her for two hours until a neighbor heard her screams.
June 17, 2008
Emilce Gomez, 47, is driving through standing water when her blue Toyota Corolla falls into a sinkhole in the eastbound lanes of the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami. The hole resulted from a water-main break. Gomez is not seriously injured.
July 15, 1999
Oscar Alvarez and his Jeep Cherokee quickly sink into the deep water of a sinkhole that opens up on Busch Boulevard in Tampa after an underground water main bursts. Alvarez is pulled from his car by passers-by. He is not injured.
Dec. 17, 1968
One person is killed and five injured when the northbound two-lane span of the U.S. 19 Anclote River Bridge in Tarpon Springs collapses, apparently because of an underwater sinkhole. Two cars plunge 30 feet into the river and others crash into the bridge. Jane Simson, 28, is killed when her car hits the collapsed section and is hurtled through the air into another section of the bridge.
A well-driller's helper suffocates when he is buried in a sinkhole near Keystone Heights in north-central Florida.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.