KMOV-TV reported Tuesday that Mark Mihal, 43, dislocated his shoulder when the ground suddenly gave way beneath him on Friday (March 8) at the fairway of the 14th hole at the Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill., just southeast of St. Louis, Mo.
"I was just freefalling," said Mihal. "It felt like forever, but it was just a second or two, and I didn’t know what I was going to hit. And all I saw was darkness.”
Friends managed to hoist Mihal to safety with a rope after about 20 minutes.
While disturbing, such sinkholes aren’t uncommon in southwestern Illinois, where old underground mines frequently cause the earth to settle.
In Mihal’s case, the sinkhole’s culprit was subsurface limestone that dissolves from acidic rainwater, snowmelt and carbon dioxide, eventually causing the ground to collapse, said Sam Panno, a senior geochemist with the Illinois State Geological Survey.
That region “is riddled with sinkholes,” with as many as 15,000 recorded, Panno said.
The experience gave Mihal quite a fright, particularly following the much-publicized recent death of a man in Florida who died when his bedroom fell into a sinkhole. That man’s body remains buried and the sinkhole has essentially become his grave site.
“I feel lucky just to come out of it with a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit,” said Mihal.
He is getting more medical tests to make sure the dislocated shoulder is the worst of his injuries.