Large hole opens up in Ocala’s Gaitway Plaza parking lot

A hole, approximately 30 feet wide and nearly 20 feet deep, has opened up in Ocala’s Gaitway Plaza parking lot. The hole is blocked off with caution tape and a fence meant to keep people away, thereby keeping them safe.

That’s a very good thing since the construction company working to fix the hole said it’s growing every day. Dwight Smith, President and Manager of D&D Smith Constructors said the Vitamin Shoppe the hole formed near still has about 20 feet of leeway, but that won’t last forever.. 

"It is getting bigger toward the building," said Smith. "It’s wanting to erode, we can see it each day."

Smith said the hole formed because of underground piping that came loose.

"It broke and caved in overtime," he explained. "It just started leaking out and creating a void and then boom, down goes the parking lot."

D&D Smith Constructors is doing what it can, but people shopping in the plaza are still scared of seeing the chasm. Erica Hampton says she wants to see the situation handled right away.

"That’s definitely a big concern, and I feel like they need to get on top of it so no one gets hurt," said Hampton.

However, the constant rain the past few days poses a huge problem for workers trying to repair the hole.

"When you’re taking out soils and replacing it and compacting it, you really can’t do it in the rain," explained Smith. "You’ve got to go all the way back, dig it all out, fill it all up, compact it, test it. Then you’ve got your asphalt company coming in. Then you’ve got to stripe it and put the curbs and get it ready."

Smith is hoping to have things fixed in three to four weeks, but called that a "miracle time frame."

Some work has already started. Geotechnical crews went out Tuesday with what’s called ground-penetrating radar. That lets them see gas and electrical lines in the ground, so they know what they’re working around. 

More teams will be out with ground-penetrating radar Wednesday. Crews will also start boring into the ground to test whether the soil is stable.