OCEAN CITY — More details emerged this week on the single-vehicle accident on northbound Coastal Highway last Thursday afternoon involving a small car hitting a dislodged manhole cover in the area of 48th Street causing the vehicle to flip onto its roof.
Just before 2 p.m. last Thursday, Ocean City Fire Department units were dispatched to the area of 48th Street and Coastal Highway for a reported single-vehicle accident with entrapment. The investigation revealed a small, red, two-door vehicle was heading north on Coastal Highway in the area of 48th Street when it struck a manhole cover that was dislodged. The force of the light vehicle hitting the open manhole caused the vehicle to flip over on its roof.
Ocean City Fire Department crews and EMS worked to extricate the unidentified driver from the vehicle. The entrapped victim was removed from the overturned vehicle and taken to the hospital via ambulance. According to sources, the victim was hospitalized with injuries not believed to be life threatening.
The victim has since retained an attorney and the town of Ocean City and Risk Manager Eric Lagstrom has been notified. Coastal Highway is officially Maryland Route 528, a state-owned highway. Late last week, a State Highway Administration (SHA) spokesman said a check of scheduled road projects revealed no active construction slated for Coastal Highway last Thursday. In fact, SHA is not permitted to do any work on Coastal Highway between Memorial Day and Labor Day, unless it is an emergency.
Lagstrom said this week the town of Ocean City’s Public Works Department had been assisting a subcontractor with the installation of water meters up and down the highway throughout the spring and crews were working in the area of the accident last Thursday. Although he said he couldn’t get into the specifics and the investigation is ongoing, witness reports collected at the scene provided more details about the events leading up to the crash.
“I don’t like saying a whole lot in an active investigation, but what we do know is that the manhole cover became dislodged when another vehicle ran over just before the victim did,” he said. “It was sitting up on its edge, like a coin might in a smaller glass, and she hit it head on. From the damage to the vehicle, one can see a v-shaped impact where she hit the manhole cover. A witness who was driving behind the victim said he didn’t see anything until the car in front of him flipped.”
Initial reports said the manhole cover was left off, leaving the hole in the highway open. The working theory late last week was that the victim’s front tire hit the open manhole, causing the vehicle to flip from its front end onto its roof. However, Lagstrom said the manhole cover was ajar after becoming dislodged. “It had popped up after another vehicle had run over it,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t know what would have been worse, hitting the dislodged manhole cover or hitting an open hole around two feet in diameter.”
Lagstrom said he was certain crews replaced the manhole cover when they were finished their project, but it became dislodged when another vehicle drove over it.
“They put it back in place like they always do, but those things aren’t locked down or fastened in any way,” he said. “This is just one of those unfortunate incidents. Why it popped up like it did we don’t know. I talked to some of our guys who have been here for 35 years and they don’t recall it ever happening before.”