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Sinkhole just 'an inconvenience' for Dunedin cancer survivor

DUNEDIN — After what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy two years ago, Colin Niven was told he had stage 4 colon cancer.

Doctors gave him two years to live.

Today, the 57-year-old is cancer-free, but the health scare gave him perspective, he said.

Especially on Wednesday night, when Niven and his wife returned from dinner with friends to find a sinkhole expanding rapidly in front of their home.

"It's been two years. I should be almost dead," Niven said Thursday. "So, compared to that, this is just an inconvenience."

The sinkhole — estimated at 15 to 20 feet across, just as long and 8 feet deep — was still widening as Niven and his wife, Judi, pulled up.

"It was like Pac-Man last night, just gobbling up everything in sight," Dunedin fire division Chief Bill McElligott said. "We were afraid it was going to take the house."

But the three-bedroom, two-bath house at 253 Park Circle S was still standing Thursday, as contractors dumped fill dirt into the hole to temporarily stabilize the area.

An engineer was scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to begin working on plans to fill the massive hole and install underpinnings to support the structure.

In the meantime, the Nivens' insurance company has put them up at a hotel and is looking for long-term temporary housing for them while repairs are made.

Damages are estimated at $75,000 to $100,000, said Thomas Diana, vice president of strategic claims for HomeWise, the couple's insurance company.

A contractor began working on filling another sinkhole at the home on Monday. Diana said it's possible that vibrations from drilling on that project caused the larger depression to open up.

Neighbor Bill Douglas, who lives directly behind the Nivens in the quiet residential subdivision two blocks off Edgewater Drive, said he had a sinkhole on his property two years ago. In the 37 years he's lived in the neighborhood, Douglas said, he's seen about a half-dozen sinkholes on various properties nearby.

It could be several months before the Nivens are able to come home. But Colin Niven said he was taking it all in stride.

"You can replace a house," he said. "But you can't replace a family member."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

The house at 253 Park Circle S in Dunedin remained standing Thursday afternoon. Dirt has been dumped into the sinkhole.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

The house at 253 Park Circle S in Dunedin remained standing Thursday afternoon. Dirt has been dumped into the sinkhole.

Sinkhole just 'an inconvenience' for Dunedin cancer survivor 05/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:05pm]
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