Depot Riggers' Deft Response Save Aircraft Parts from Sinkhole

    by Brigitte Rox, CCAD Public Affairs


Riggers work with a crane to reach far enough into and around the sinkhole to strap and lift the containerized components out of danger. U.S. Army Photo RELEASED

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Apr 18, 2011) – Corpus Christi Army Depot riggers rescued millions of dollars in aviation components from a sinkhole April 15, that developed after a water main broke the day before on Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

Aircraft parts held at the Defense Logistic Agency’s outside storage lot were in immediate danger as the ground below them gave way.

“When we arrived at the scene, there were already aircraft parts floating in the water,” said Ruben Rivera, CCAD Industrial Trades Branch Chief. “With the ground giving way, the team had to use extra precautions."

Friday morning, DLA employees noticed a sinkhole filled with water. Long rotary wing cans teetered above the hole, while smaller barrel-sized cans and boxes had slipped in.

“The hole probably developed overnight,” said Tom Reed, Security Officer for DLA. “Nobody anticipated this. It just happened.”

DLA Commander, Lt. Col. Bernard Warrington called and the depot responded immediately. CCAD called on Rivera and his rigging team to help pull aircraft parts away from the damage.

The rigging team used a small crane to pluck the parts out of the sinkhole and surrounding area.

“It’s a lot of unstable ground so we can’t drive a forklift. We were real precautious about it,” said Rivera.

The sinkhole is believed to be 30 feet in diameter, according to Reed. Another sinkhole, 80 feet away caused by the break was estimated to be approximately 15-20 feet in diameter.

“There was sufficient area that dropped 12-16 inches, somewhere in the area of 100 feet in diameter,” said Mark Ruszczyk, CCAD Senior Civil Engineer.

 “When things are trenched, that’s what you have to watch out for,” said David Askew, Safety Specialist for CCAD. “There’s a buffer zone. You don’t know how far this [hole] can go back. There’s an immediate exposure and then there’s a zone of danger.”

The areas where the two sink holes occurred were immediately roped off, nearby streets were closed to prevent further damage and notices went out to all work forces to stay away from the affected areas.

As the CCAD rigging team extracted the aircraft parts from the sinkhole, DLA employees were ready with forklifts and trucks, relocating them.

“It all happened pretty quickly,” said Reed. “Everybody worked well together to get it done.”

 “The sink hole is the result of not being able to shut off the water fast enough,” said Rusczcyk. He noted that it took less than two hours to shut it off.

Ruszczyk notes that the public water line failed due to aging infrastructure. The pipe that broke has been underground for approximately 60-70 years and has been slowly eroding and corroding through the decades.

 “Be prepared for the next one,” said Ruszczyk. “As you make a repair, the next weaker section of the pipe starts to erode faster. There’s a continual risk on the infrastructure.”

The Navy’s long-term plan is to make lasting repairs to the aging infrastructure and is presently working on to secure a contract for the repair.


One of the two sinkholes caused by a watermain break aboard Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, April 15. U.S. Army Photo RELEASED


One of CCAD's riggers maneuvers his way around the sinkhole to gain leverage on the aviation components in the containers teetering on the edge. U.S. Army Photo RELEASED


Designated a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for rotary wing aircraft, Corpus Christi Army Depot ensures aviation readiness through overhaul, repair, modification, retrofit, testing, recapitalization, and modernization of helicopters, engines and components. This effort includes world-wide on-site field maintenance teams, analytical crash investigations and chemical material process facilities. CCAD serves as a depot training base for active duty Army, National Guard, and reserve units. CCAD, as South Texas' largest industrial employer, employs more than 5500 personnel and contractors providing an overall economic impact of more than $1.14 Billon to the local community.