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Street cleaner tells of lucky escape after pavement collapses beneath him in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 08:22 26 October 2012

A pavement collapsed in Northgate Street on the morning of Tuesday, October 23, leaving a road sweeper in a hole. Photo: Andrew Turner

A pavement collapsed in Northgate Street on the morning of Tuesday, October 23, leaving a road sweeper in a hole. Photo: Andrew Turner

Archant

A street cleaner has told of his lucky escape after a pavement collapsed beneath his sweeping machine and he was dropped into a gaping hole.

Kelvin London was driving his sweeper along the footway in Great Yarmouth when a section of concrete gave way and he and the vehicle plunged into the chasm.

The 58 year old was completing his early morning route down Northgate Street as normal on Tuesday when the pavement suddenly gave way.

He said: “There were a lot of leaves on the path so I went on the path - that’s normal for the sweeper - and suddenly I thought I’d been hit from behind, then when the thing came to I suddenly found I was looking up in the air.”

Shaken but unhurt he scrambled out of the sweeper and turned off the engine.

The machine was left stuck in the pavement at an angle after being caught by a slab, which Mr London said had prevented it from falling any deeper.

“Luckily when it went down a huge concrete slab went down with the machine and stopped me from really going right under. If that slab would have broken up I think the whole sweeper would have been underground,” he added.

Mr London, a dad of one, called for help and a lorry with a crane soon arrived to recover the sweeper from the hole. He stressed the machine was designed to clean pathways and alleys and he had swept the same section of pavement on Monday.

Highway workers later arrived at the scene outside the entrance to Northgate Hospital and began investigating what caused the collapse, with an initial report pointing to subsoil that had been washed away.

Mr London, who has been a street cleaner for eight years, said he could see further erosion under the slabs.

He added: “You could look up the path towards Great Yarmouth and could see underneath the concrete that wasn’t being supported by anything. (There wasn’t) anything there for about two foot.”

After being recovered the sweeper was inspected, found to have minimal damage and was back on the road by 11.15am - with Mr London at the wheel.

He wished to thank everyone who had left messages on Facebook wishing him a speedy recovery from his shaky ordeal.

Highway bosses from Norfolk County Council and staff from Anglia Water have cleared away some of the slabs to continue their investigations and pedestrians are being diverted into the road to walk round the collapse.

It is not yet known when the pavement will reopen.

Robert West, highway engineer, said: “Investigations are continuing to establish the cause of the subsoil wash out, which caused the collapse. Both the county council and Anglian Water are surveying their drainage and sewer lines to establish any possible breaks that could have caused the problem.

“It is too early to pinpoint the exact location and precise cause until these survey works are completed.

“Temporary traffic controls and the closure of the footway must be in place until the problem is fixed.”

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