CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - After FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant fell through a concrete sidewalk panel, called a “utility vault,” crews have now patched up the hole, preventing this from happening to anyone else.
“Is this a serious safety hazard?,” asked Grant.
“Oh absolutely,” said retired construction consultant Robert Clare, who has worked in the industry for more than 50 years.
Clare looked at a photograph of the collapsed panel and points to missing bolts, which are meant to anchor it to the frame. Without them, the sidewalk turned into a trap door swallowing Grant up to his waist. Clare calls the missing bolts a major mistake constituting “negligence.”
“It’s negligence,” said Clare. “Or it’s willful.”
FOX 46 wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to you. It turns out the panel, which was lying horizontal at the time and meant to be walked in, is owned and operated by Charter Spectrum. Within hours of calling, the cable company sent a crew to fix the collapsed panel, which opened up a hole, meant to house fiber optic cables.
Spectrum officials say they don’t know who removed the bolts and, presumably, forgot to put them back.
“The cover was apparently opened during sidewalk work performed in that area by a(n unknown) third party unconnected to Charter,” said spokesperson Patrick Paterno in a statement.
FOX 46 asked Spectrum how they would not know if an outside company did work on a piece of equipment that they own. Paterno would not go on camera but said whoever damaged the panel never alerted the cable company, which did not know there was a problem until Fox 46 alerted them.
“We first learned of the issue from Mr. Grant and we’re grateful he wasn’t injured,” said Paterno. “It’s not our practice to leave our network assets unsecured and our crews have already been onsite the secure the cover.”
But we still don’t know who messed up that cover to begin with. Atherton Mill, whose property it is on, told Fox 46 to contact Spectrum, which owns the utility vault. Spectrum said to contact the city of Charlotte. A spokesperson there said she had “no indication that this work was done by the city” and to try Mecklenburg County officials.
FOX 46 has requested any work orders or permits filed with the county for sidewalk work in the area in an effort to find out who is responsible.
“Somebody messed up pretty good,” said Clare.