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Plant City woman slips into sinkhole, calls for rescue on cell phone

PLANT CITY — As far as Mondays go, this one was particularly bad for Carla Chapman.

It was just after 10 a.m. on the already gloomy day when the 47-year-old woman took a fateful step.

There, in the back yard of Chapman's home — on the particularly safe-sounding Berry Blossom Lane in Plant City — a 24-inch-wide sinkhole opened beneath her feet and pulled her into the muddy earth.

Thank goodness she had her cell phone.

One 911 call later, Plant City police Officer William Osmanski was on the scene.

He first called for backup. Then he reached down and grabbed for Chapman's wrists, keeping her from slipping farther down the hole until more rescuers arrived.

When everybody was back on solid ground, Chapman and Osmanski were both taken to South Florida Baptist Hospital — Osmanski to be treated for exhaustion and Chapman for unknown reasons. Both were released by Monday afternoon.

They reunited later at Chapman's home, where the hole was surrounded by crime scene tape.

"I asked for Officer Osmanski's name so I could tell him thank you personally for lying there, holding on to me like a vice grip, saying, 'I'm not going to let you go, angel. I'm not going to let you go, angel. I'm not going to let you go,' " Chapman told Bay News 9.

By circumference, the hole seems unimpressively small, not much bigger than a beach ball. But don't let that fool you.

When Osmanski got there and followed the screams to the back yard, all he could see were Chapman's fingertips sticking out of the dirt, he told the news station.

"That's all I seen, and as I looked down from her waist down, she was covered in mud and water and sand."

A neighbor, 17-year-old Juan Valencia, described the hole as 5- to 8-feet deep, one of many sinkholes in the agriculture-heavy area near Trapnell Road.

Valencia heard about Chapman's ordeal when he got home from school Monday afternoon. He hadn't had a chance to talk to her yet, but the news was unsettling.

"She's, like, a really nice person," Valencia said of Chapman. "When I heard that, it kind of had an impact."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Plant City woman slips into sinkhole, calls for rescue on cell phone 03/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 11:59pm]
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