Longstanding open manhole injures crash victim

“My daughter gets out of the car and literally disappears,” Jake Walsh recounted to the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “(Kellie) gets out and looks and she is down in this hole, trying to get out. She’s a fit young lady, so she got out pretty easily. But she got scratched up pretty badly; it was pretty traumatic.” Walsh said that Camryn’s stress was so bad from the whole ordeal that she avoided freeway driving for weeks after.

Walsh was bewildered by what happened to his daughter. He wondered how this manhole could be simply left gaping like that. He thought about how much worse Camryn’s injuries could have been. What if she had hooked her chin on the edge on the way down, or what if someone less fit or larger had taken that unexpected plunge? What about panhandlers or landscapers that could walk there and get hurt?

So Walsh did what every citizen should do when confronted with a problem: He reached out to get it fixed. Walsh dialed 3-1-1, the City of Atlanta’s Department of Customer Service, and did not get very far. While he talked to several people, Walsh said he felt he got handed around and never to the right person.

He says he thinks this manhole is another accident waiting to happen.

Walsh is worried about people who truly need that strip of pavement for an emergency; it is an emergency lane. And while people should not normally walk along a freeway or a ramp, sometimes that is necessary.

“If you’re walking in that area, you’re not going to walk on the concrete where the traffic is and you’re not going to walk in the grass, because it is uncut and you could turn an ankle or something,” Walsh said. And then, unexpectedly, that slice of ground is gone. No cones, no signs.

Walsh has visited the site several times since Camryn’s June 2023 fall. The hole still sits unprotected. He has gone on Google Street View and seen that same hole in that spot dating back to 2011, the earliest Street View shots of that spot. So this unprotected void dates at least back to Obama’s first term. Kasim Reed was the Atlanta mayor. GA-400 still had a toll plaza. Freddie Freeman and Julio Jones were rookies and Chipper Jones was in his penultimate season. Taylor Swift was only a millionaire. And no one knew what “Snowmageddon” was.

Given the brick wall Walsh hit with the city, I recently reached out to Atlanta DOT and also to GDOT (since this manhole is along an interstate and the state maintains freeways) and am waiting to hear back.

Camryn Walsh is 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Her surprise manhole plunge saw her peeking up with only the top of her nose and above cresting the edge. This hole is on a busy stretch of I-285 that sees its fair share of wrecks and jams. Inevitably, a motorist or first responder is going to need that Cascade entrance ramp emergency lane. As long as that manhole remains uncovered, someone else is eventually going to get hurt worse than she did. Thank goodness that Jake Walsh has stayed on this small crusade for six months; we can all learn from him. Hopefully, the right people take notice and take action.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.

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