New York man spends night trapped in sewer hole

June 14, 2011 4:30:41 PM PDT
A New York worker was rescued after falling down a sewer hole in a Uniondale parking lot overnight Tuesday.

The victim, identfied as Joe Hranicka, fell some 25 feet into the hole off of Jerusalem Avenue and waited there for about eight hours before he was pulled out.

"He was in for quite an ordeal," Nassau Detective Lieutenant Kevin Smith said. "Overnight, alone, no cell phone, I would imagine, or if he had it, he probably lost it. In that dark hole all night long."

Smith said Hranicka was doing his job sweeping the parking lot when he came upon a piece of plywood.

"And being a good worker, he moved it out of the way so he could clean that part of the street," Smith said. "What he didn't know was that it was covering a hole in the ground where a storm drain had been removed."

In the light of day, the open storm grate is clearly visible. But at 11 p.m. on Monday night, Hranicka could not see it. He fell, fracturing both wrists in the process. A passerby heard his screams, but not for hours.

"I was riding my bicycle, heading to my girlfriend's house, and I heard somebody yell, 'Help me, help me, help me,'" Timmy Eareckson said. "So I looked down, and there was a guy stuck in the manhole...So I called the police, and they came. They responded."

Police say the rescue happened following a chain of events. The storm grate was only covered with plywood because someone had tried to remove its metal cover, possibly to sell it at the scrap yard. The metal cover fell, however, down the drain. When the property manager realized the problem Monday, he made plans to repair it Tuesday. He used the plywood as a temporary fix.

As to whether the property owner may be held responsible, Smith said police are investigating.

"They discovered it yesterday, they were prepared to deal with it today," he said. "We do have detectives looking at it."

Hranicka is in the hospital with fractures to both wrists. He's getting a CAT scan and may need surgery.

The property manager did not answer or return calls made by WABC-TV in New York.


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