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30ft sinkhole swallows family car


By Tom Donnelley

A family have described their shock at realising a 30ft-deep sinkhole had opened up in the driveway and swallowed their car - but also their relief that nobody was hurt.

Liz and Phil Conran's teenage daughter discovered the 15ft-wide crater at the family home in Main Road, Walter's Ash, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, early on Sunday morning.

Mrs Conran said her daughter, 19-year-old Zoe Smith, went into hysterics upon discovering her prized Volkswagen Lupo had disappeared into the ground.

'We feel lucky that we're all okay'

Explaining what happened Mrs Conran said: "My daughter went to go and let her horses out because she was going off somewhere for the day and she had to drive up there, and she got herself all ready, got to the door, and saw her car wasn't there.

"She thought that was a bit weird, of course it was still fairly dark outside, so she went round to the kitchen window and then she saw the crater and just started screaming. We just kind of took it from there really.

"We had no idea whether the car was actually in the hole or not, we couldn't get close enough to have a look right down to the bottom, it's about 30 feet deep.

"The car is on its side, its full of soil and she certainly, we don't think, would have got out of it had she been in it, had she driven in and it had happened."

Mrs Conran, a 51-year-old school bursar, said the relief that nothing had happened to her daughter was the overwhelming emotion, while the rest was "just an annoyance".

"What could have happened to Zoe is so awful that we just feel so lucky that we're all okay, that actually we've not really had much chance to worry about who's going to pay for it and what's going to have to be done," she said.

'It swallowed the car whole'

However Zoe, a sales assistant, was "absolutely gutted" because she had been so proud of her car, Mrs Conran said.

She said the family, including her 59-year-old husband Phil who works as an environmental consultant, were stunned at the size of the crater that had appeared in the driveway of their home, where they have lived for the last nine and a half years.

"The actual size of it is what I think has taken us most by surprise," she said.

"It's just swallowed the car whole. The car has managed to rotate and turn, it's on its side but its also facing the opposite way from where it was parked.

"So just the sheer size of it, and obviously what could have happened, and of course we're wondering what else is going on in the area."

She went on: "It's one of those natural things that has happened, probably been made worse by the fact that they've mined in the area in the past but whether or not that's got anything to do with it we don't know."

£1000 insurance excess

The family stayed with neighbours last night after being advised to stay away from the house and are waiting for a insurance company representative to come out to assess whether they can remain in the house tonight.

The next step was to find out if their property was safe to stay in, she said, and then tackle the issue of insurance.

"There's the usual when you have subsidence or anything like that, we've already been told there's a £1000 excess, so we'll have to swallow that," she said.

"Then obviously they'll have to make good but we're not sure what that will entail at all and how far down it goes.

"Obviously we can see earth 30ft down and the car but what we can't see beyond that and how stable it is under the house, so that's going to be a bit of a drama."

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