Giant Sinkhole Swallows Corvettes in a "Swallette"

22 Oct 2015 7:28 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

Article by Alex Potter-Weight

On September 24th, 2015, Michael J. Marasa, P.E., Business Development Manager at Hayward Baker Inc., presented the fascinating case study of the National Corvette Museum sinkhole remediation in Bowling Green, KY.  More than 50 ASCE and DFI members and guests gathered at the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania for his lecture titled “Investigation and Treatment of a ‘Swallvette’”, which cleverly combined the term “swallet” (meaning sinkhole) and “corvette”. 

The project gained significant national attention in 2014 when eight valuable Chevrolet Corvettes were swallowed by a large sinkhole.  The collapse of a large portion of museum floor slab was captured by security cameras and the video quickly went viral, shining a spotlight on the remediation efforts.  The ensuing investigation discovered that the surface rock and soil supporting the museum was underlain by a large cave of karstic subsidence.  The surface rock eventually gave way and broke structurally, collapsing into the cave, bringing the building with it.

Mr. Marasa and Hayward Baker joined the project team shortly after the collapse.  A plan to isolate and support the remainder of the building with micropiles was quickly put in place, preventing additional collapse during reconstruction.  After further investigation of the cave by geologists at Western Kentucky University, the next phase of the remediation involved the careful removal of the famous Corvettes.  Of the eight cars, some had only limited damage while others were completely wrecked with a few salvageable parts.  Once these vehicles were retrieved, the sinkhole was closed off by custom-made horizontal sheeting to allow for backfill, additional micropile installation, and foundation reconstruction.

The remediation project was completed earlier this year and the Corvette Museum was re-opened for business.  The floor of the museum now features painted lines outlining the cave location and where the slab collapsed.  Donning gold chains and a hawaiian shirt as a steoretypical ‘Vette owner, Mr. Marasa’s high-energy presentation also included background history on each of the eight damaged cars and highlighted some of the challenges caused by the significant media attention.  Mr. Marasa has presented on the ‘Swallvette’ over 40 times to various organizations around the country and has been featured on the History Channel for his work on this high-profile remediation project.

This joint technical meeting was hosted by the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) and the Geo-Institute Chapter of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section and included a social hour and a dinner.  The organizations were happy to be able to provide 1.0 PDH hours for this lecture.  Before the presentation, Mary Ellen Large, Technical Activities Director of DFI, welcomed the attendees and encouraged participation in DFI’s technical and social events in the upcoming program year.  Brian Heinzl, Chair of the Geo-Institute of the Pittsburgh Section of ASCE, introduced the new Geo-Institute Board and gave a preview of the upcoming technical program for 2015-2016.  

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