Ottawa

Locksmith's van swallowed by sinkhole will stay put, encased in concrete

The locksmith whose van slipped into the Rideau Street sinkhole on Wednesday says the vehicle — and everything inside it — will be lost forever because it fell too deep to be salvaged.

Minivan to be left in place 'for future generations to discover'

The van begins to slip into the Rideau Street sinkhole. (CBC)

It was the ultimate bad parking job.

Now the locksmith whose van slipped into the Rideau Street sinkhole Wednesday says the vehicle — and everything inside it — is down there to stay.

Paul Charette told Radio-Canada's Les matins d'ici Thursday morning that the van would be encased in concrete far below the road's surface.

"All my equipment for keys, working on doors, on safes, it's all in there. I had a lot, a lot in there," said Charette, who was not in the van when it dropped into the hole.

Speaking in French at a news conference Thursday afternoon, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony DiMonte confirmed the van fell too deep to be salvaged, and will remain encased in concrete "for future generations to discover."

I saw it fall. I was there from when the hole began.- Locksmith Paul Charette

Officials said it would be unsafe to place lifting equipment near the edge of the sinkhole, so the decision was made to leave the vehicle where it was.

It's believed the weight of the concrete that will soon cover the van will crush the vehicle, so officials aren't worried about leaving a void.

Also believed lost in the sinkhole was a piece of construction equipment officials referred to as a "scissor lift."

'I saw it fall'

Soon after forming, the sinkhole stretched from Rideau Street's south sidewalk to the north sidewalk in front of a Chapters book store, where Charette's van was parked.

His manager said Charette had been doing some work for a jewelry store inside the Rideau Centre.

"At the beginning, the hole was a little bit far away [from the van] and he was talking to the police [to see] if it was possible to get the van and drive away," said Michel Kiwan, manager of First Choice Locksmith in Wellington West.

"The fire marshal said no, it's not safe."

Paul Charette had hoped to drive the van away from the edge of the sinkhole, but the fire marshal told him it wasn't safe. (Facebook)

Videos show the pavement giving way like chocolate being snapped from a bar as the van — and a nearby light standard — slipped into the abyss.

"I saw it fall. I was there from when the hole began. And the street was already blocked, like the firefighters wouldn't let anyone pass.… The road had just begun to fall and fell even more … really close to the vehicle," Charette said.

Despite losing his locksmith equipment — not to mention his mobile office — Charette returned to work Thursday morning.

Michel Kiwan manages First Choice Locksmith. His employee Paul Charette was working inside the Rideau Centre when the sinkhole opened on Rideau Street, eventually swallowing his van and equipment. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

"My boss was really good with me. He already lent me another van and he lent me his own tools," said Charette.

Kiwan said the value of the 2014 minivan and the gear inside it was about $37,000.

"At least it's all material, who cares. That's what I told [Charette] … just leave it, if it's going to go in the hole it's going to go in the hole," Kiwan said.

"I was hoping it was going to stop so it wouldn't collapse the whole road. He waited, waited until he saw it in action: the whole van's gone down."

Kiwan said he's been in touch with his insurance company, and he has a rental van and some spare tools to keep up with their workload.

With files from Stu Mills

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