Sidewalk swallows reporter, expert blames worker "negligence"

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What happens when the ground beneath your feet becomes a trap door?

 FOX 46’s new investigative reporter Matt Grant was walking on South Boulevard in South End over the weekend when he fell "waist-deep" through a concrete panel in the middle of the sidewalk, according to Grant and a witness. The panel, called a “utility vault,” is owned by Spectrum and is meant to cover fiber optic cables.

It is also meant to be walked on without collapsing.

“You were just casually walking and went damn near waist deep,” said Big Ben British Pub bartender Millie Harris, who watched Grant fall.

Grant snapped a picture afterwards showing the concrete vault lying vertical next to a sandwich board and an orange cone, which were placed there after the accident to alert pedestrians.   

Industry experts contacted by FOX 46 point to clearly missing bolts that are meant to anchor the panel to its frame.

“Is this a serious safety hazard right here?,” asked Grant.

“Oh absolutely,” said retired construction consultant Robert Clare, who has more than 50 years of experience in the industry. “Somebody messed up.”

Clare says it’s lucky nobody was injured and calls the missing bolts “negligence.”

“It would take a mischievous act to take the bolts out,” said Clare. “Or absolute ignorance to take them out and leave them out.”

FOX 46 wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. After Grant called the city, crews began arriving to figure out what happened.

The panel is located on a sidewalk next to the old Tremont trolley station inside the Atherton Mill shopping plaza.

A property manager told FOX 46 not to “film on private property” when he came back to see what was being done to prevent another accident from happening.

The vault used to be used for the now defunct trolley stop but is no longer owned by the city, according to Charlotte Area Transit System officials. Spectrum officials confirm they now own and operate the panel.

After FOX 46 called Spectrum, to alert them to the problem, their crews showed up Wednesday to inspect the panel.

FOX 46 is looking into how this could happen and what’s being done to prevent it from happening again. The cable company says they are looking into it.

"For the amount of people that walk on the rail trail,” said Harris, “it’s definitely something we need to get fixed.”

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