A large track hoe was used to collapse the roof of a sinkhole in the Spring River Thursday where a whirlpool claimed the life of a kayak paddler on June 9. The structure fell into itself, resolving the water hazard that had been created by erosion, according to the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands.
State, federal and local officials had met in June to discuss the hazard and to determine how to correct the problem and ensure public safety. They enlisted the help of hydrogeologist Tom Aley, PG with Ozark Underground Laboratory in Protem, Missouri.
After visiting the site, where Aley conducted a survey of the area with a dye tracing technique to determine the characteristics of the hazard, the agencies began examining potential fixes.
Commissioner of State Lands John Thurston extended thanks to all of the agencies and individuals involved in the project. He acknowledged additional assistance from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Missy Irvin, as well as the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for expediting permits for the work.
“Without the tireless work of many people, we would not have completed this project in a timely manner,” he said. “Each agency, official and volunteer has given a great amount of time to put together the plan and act upon it before anyone else was injured.”
The sinkhole created a large whirlpool that capsized a canoe on June 9, pitching two men into the water. One of the men was sucked through the whirlpool and through the sinkhole, exiting out of the rock shelf below the whirlpool.
Donald Wright died while trying to help 2 others caught near Spring River sinkhole whirlpool. (Photo: Photo: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Selah Neal)