DRAPER, Utah (ABC4) — A Draper City resident says there is a big safety issue in the city after he ran over a manhole cover, causing his truck to bounce into the air during a rain storm in August.
Jacob Nielsen said he was bringing his daughter home from a softball practice when the storm hit. While they recorded the crazy weather, their truck was suddenly thrown into the air.
“We hit [it] with such force, it just bounced my truck up in the air,” said Nielsen. “I had a bunch of tools fly out of the back of my truck out into the street. It ruined my tire. It was just an ugly scene.”
The culprit? A loose manhole cover. Nielsen said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. He claimed Draper City residents have been dealing with running over loose manhole covers for years, each time reporting new damages. He said his truck likely suffered thousands of dollars in damage as the manhole cover damaged critical mechanical components of his car.
More importantly, however, Nielsen is worried about everyone’s safety.
“That could literally kill somebody,” Nielsen said. “That cover that I hit flew 30 feet into the air behind me. [As] I was dragging the manhole cover to put it back on so that somebody else didn’t hit it or hit the hole, you can see cars driving by within feet of it. You can’t even see it.”
Draper City: “It is definitely a safety concern.”
Draper City Communications Director Linda Peterson told ABC4 the city is aware of reports of such incidents but noted it is not a situation that is common. Peterson said the city was hit by two severe rainstorms in August that dropped significant amounts of rain in a short amount of time.
“When intense rainstorms occur, the energy and pressure of the heavier water flow can cause the manholes to pop off,” stated Peterson in an email response to ABC4’s questions. “Some manhole covers are locked down but not all because that pressure has to have a release at points along the way or damage could be catastrophic to roads, adjacent neighborhoods, etc.”
On Aug. 3, said Peterson, Draper received 2.25 inches of rain in around 35 minutes. On Aug. 23, the city received 0.64 inches in around 15 to 20 minutes. The city received reports of manhole covers popping loose during both of those events. However, she said the only previous instances reported to the city were five years ago when Draper was upgrading storm drainage systems and a severe storm caused a manhole cover to come loose, again, in severe weather.
“This has not been an ongoing issue,” Peterson said.
Outside of the incident five years ago and the two this month, Peterson said there have been no other reports of similar incidents.
“Manhole covers popping off can happen in any city in downpours like we experienced so it is important that people be aware if they are driving in a severe rainstorm, reduce speed, and watch for road hazards, including lids off of manholes,” she said. “It is definitely a safety concern.”
Who should pay for damages?
Nielsen said he was lucky because he was in a truck. He’s worried for drivers in smaller cars saying the manhole cover would have likely flipped their cars over. Nielsen expressed his concerns with the city, saying he reached out multiple times to file a claim on his truck and hopefully get the issue fixed.
After several calls and being given different phone numbers, the city reportedly told Nielsen they would send a way to file a claim for his truck. Nielsen says that was never sent to him. In fact, he said an attorney from the city reached out saying the city was not going to pay out any claims on the truck damage.
“I just want them to fix the problem. The excuse they gave me today is that ‘somebody’ had told them everything was compliant, and everything was fine,” said Nielsen. “There is no debate. It’s not theoretical. I have video of it not working and many other residents up here are having the same issues.”
Nielsen told ABC4 he found the lack of accountability from the city frustrating, saying it feels like they don’t care.
Peterson told ABC4 Nielsen had contacted the city’s risk manager about the incident, and information was passed on to the city’s insurance representative at the Utah Risk Management Agency.
“The insurance representative contacted [Nielsen] to let him know the circumstances did not meet the criteria for the city to pay damages due to it being storm-related,” said Peterson.
“I understand it’s a big job to keep everybody safe, but they really acted like they just didn’t care,” Nielsen said. “They weren’t going to take responsibility and that’s the thing that really irritated me. I don’t care about the claim on my truck necessarily – that stinks – but it’s a huge safety hazard.”
“Draper City’s utmost concern is the safety of residents,” said Peterson. “It has been a difficult year with severe weather that has affected many in our community, with groundwater flooding, stormwater flooding, landslides, and monsoon rainstorms. We understand how difficult it is for those who have had to deal with damage. We hope that if additional severe storm events occur everyone will be aware of how destructive water can be and take precautions if out and about, especially to not attempt to drive through flood waters and to be watchful for debris flows and other road hazards.”