Strolling Lady Is Swallowed by Sinkhole

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for 57-year-old Linda Sharp. She grabbed her dog and his leash and headed out for a routine walk. Everything was fine until she hit a bump in the road.

"I stepped on a little bubble in the ground and it just swallowed me up," Sharp said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I mean, from there, it was quick. I didn't even know what was happening."

Sharp had been literally swallowed by the ground beneath her feet. She was trapped in the sinkhole with a hurt back for three hours until rescue workers were able to devise a complicated plan to pull her out.

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Fortunately, it wasn't long before help was summoned. Neighbors found her dog, Bouncer, running around with his leash dragging behind. They took the dog back to Sharp's home, where her daughter was waiting for her. Realizing Sharp wasn't there, they started to search the neighborhood.

Orange County rescue workers said Sharp's recovery, which was achieved through the use of plywood sheets, a crane and a harness, was very dangerous.

"The biggest concern that we had was that there's going to be a secondary collapse," said Lt. Jon Haskett of the Orange County Fire & Rescue Squad. "That's why we took so much time to make sure that we didn't create a secondary collapse. All the sides of the hole were very unstable."

Haskett said rescue workers are trained to deal with sinkholes since they are relatively common in sandy coastal areas of Florida. The holes are basically a hollow spot or a depression in the land where moisture collects. This particular sinkhole occurred next to a dry lakebed known as Lake McCoy.

However, Haskett said this sinkhole was a bit unique in that it was smaller at the top than the bottom and it was made of sand with a sugary texture, which made it particularly dangerous for a rescue.

The rescue workers used the plywood sheets to cover the unstable sides of the sinkhole as Sharp, strapped into a harness, was pulled out by firefighter Scott Turner.

"I tried to stay focused on what I was doing and not necessarily on the sides of the hole," Turner said.

"I put a victim harness on her and packaged her in a special harness which stabilizes the spine and cervical area before hauling her out with a rope system," he said.

Strangely enough, one of Sharp's biggest concerns was her footwear.

"I wanted to get out myself and wanted to get my good shoes out, as well," she said.

She was relieved when she learned Turner had been able to save her shoes during the rescue.

Sharp was taken to a local hospital for treatment and released Sunday. She says she is still in pain from the fall.

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