Sheriff's deputy dies after car plunges into massive sinkhole in Texas

A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.
A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.PHOTO: EPA
A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.
A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.PHOTO: EPA
A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.
A fire department photo shows a vehicle submerged in the sinkhole.PHOTO: EPA

A Sheriff's deputy died and two other people were hurt when two vehicles plunged into a water-filled sinkhole in San Antonio, Texas.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim on Tuesday (Dec 6) as 69-year-old deputy Dora Linda Nishihara, who was a courthouse bailiff.

A crane was used to retrieve her car from water about 3.5m deep. Nishihara’s body was inside the vehicle.

Sheriff’s spokesman James Keith says Nishihara was not working on Sunday when her vehicle went into the sinkhole. 

Utility officials say the sinkhole appeared after a sewer line ruptured during heavy rain earlier on Sunday.

Authorities said two passers-by rescued a driver after another vehicle went into the sinkhole on Sunday night, according to the Guardian. That driver and one of his rescuers were treated for minor injuries.

Nishihara, who had worked as a reserve deputy for seven years, had transitioned into a part-time deputy role at the Bexar County Courthouse, Bexar Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said in a statement.

"My heart and prayers go out to the family involved in this tragedy," San Antonio Mayor Ivy R. Taylor said in a statement, according to CNN.

The sinkhole, which was located on a two lane road in south-west San Antonio, was first reported around 7.30pm on Sunday night, according to officials.

Firefighters said a man in his 60s was driving through standing water when his vehicle entered the sinkhole, said USA Today.

Occupants of a car passing by saw the man stranded and stopped to help him. Firefighters said a woman was injured in the process of helping the man.

The man who entered the sinkhole and the woman who stopped to help him were both transported to Southwest General hospital to be treated for minor injuries, USA Today reported.

By the time first responders were able to make it to the scene, they realised that Nishihara's vehicle was already 90 per cent submerged in the water, and it was not likely that she would have survived, the paper said.

The conditions of the sinkhole caused a challenging recovery situation, San Antonio fire chief Charles Hood said on Monday.

"We suffered a few collapses that widened the sinkhole, and our technical rescue team firefighters were exposed to raw sewage at a fast, flowing rate, as well as very cold water," he said.