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Sinkhole forms inside National Corvette Museum swallowing 8 milestone cars

Bowling Green, Kentucky, February 12, 2014 - A sudden developed sinkhole formed in the early morning hours this morning in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum, devouring eight rare Corvettes on display. As of this writing there’s no official word on the extent of damage to the cars or building.

Pic of the sink hole in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum
Pic of the sink hole in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
Giant sink hole measures 40 feet wide and approximately 25 to 30 feet deep.
National Corvette Museum

The eight Corvettes were among 25 to 30 cars on display in the Skydome, a cone-shaped building on the museum’s property that measures 140 feet in diameter and features a 100-foot-high glass ceiling. The cars affected include a one-off design concept of a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder - a model that was never built, and the original 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” show car. Both were on loan from General Motors, with an estimated value of well over a million apiece.

The other six vehicles, which were owned by the National Corvette Museum include a 1962 Black Corvette; a 1984 custom pace car from the IndyCar World Series; a 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Edition; a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06. Also part of the casualty were the 1 Millionth (1992) Corvette built and 1.5 Millionth (2009) Corvette built, both white convertibles.

The remaining cars in the Skydome have all been removed including an extremely rare prototype of was to have been the all-new C4 Corvette for 1983. It’s a long story of why the model skip for such a milestone anniversary, but that model would have officially recognized the Corvette’s 30th birthday.

As this YouTube video reveals, the 1962 Corvette and the 2009 ZR-1 “Blue Devil” look fairly intact. The 1993 40th Anniversary Edition also looks like it may have fared well, although it’s lying on its top. However the remaining five don't seem to be as lucky, buried under rubble. That’s not to say, once pulled out of the debris they can’t be saved. It just that their concours integrity has been lost forever.

The sink hole developed sometime after the museum closed yesterday but before 5:30 a.m. CT today. At 5:44 a.m. motion detectors went off alerting authorities. Originally thought to have been a fire, first responders discovered differently upon their arrival. It was determined that the crater measured 40 feet wide and approximately 25 to 30 feet deep.

A structural engineer was already onsite this morning to evaluate the damage. Jason Polk, a professor of geology and geography at Western Kentucky University Bowling Green is part of the team conducting the investigation. “Central Kentucky's geology lends itself to sink holes, and they are not uncommon”, Polk stated. “The cause of the sink hole has not been determined, but oftentimes this kind of hole is caused by caves that expand over time until the surface gives way.” Polk went on to say “At this point, it does not look like any other potential sink holes are threatening the rest of the museum.”

Bowling Green, located about 60 miles northeast of Nashville, Tennessee and 100 miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky, sits in the midst of Kentucky’s Western Pennyroyal area, where many of the state’s longest and deepest caves run underground. Mammoth Cave National Park is located just 30 miles northeast of Bowling Green.

Since this occurred after hours there were no reported injuries and it appears this is the first incident of its kind at the property. An estimate of the cost of the damage done to vehicles and the museum has not yet been determined. The area around the sink hole is closed to visitors, but the rest of the museum remained open as of Wednesday morning.

Earlier today I spoke with Bob Young, a member of Dallas-based Lone Star Corvette Club. He expressed that all the Corvette clubs and club members all over the world that support the museum received a special media alert e-mail Wednesday from the museum. This same e-mail served as a general press release for the media.

Opened in 1994, the 110,000 sq. ft. museum houses more than 70 Corvette models and one-of-a-kind concept cars spanning the 60 year history of the Corvette. The facility includes a conference and research center. The museum also serves as a delivery point, if the customer decides to exercise the option of factory delivery.

The Kentucky Corvette plant is the only one in the world where GM builds the Corvette – and that’s for North America as well as international markets. A big celebration marking the museum’s 20th birthday is set for this August.

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