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Published On: Tue, Mar 12th, 2013

Mark Mihal, Illinois golfer falls into sinkhole ‘I was just freefalling’

An Illinois golfer has a unique story to tell after falling into a sinkhole, 18 feet and lived to tell the tale.

golf course sinkhole man falls insideThe 43-year-old mortgage broker, Mark Mihal, may be counting his blessings Tuesday and nursing a dislocated shoulder sustained when he tumbled into an 18-foot deep sinkhole on the 14th hole of the Annbriar Golf Club near Waterloo, Ill., just southeast of St. Louis.

“I feel lucky just to come out of it with a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit,” Mihal, from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, told The Associated Press before heading off to learn whether he’ll need surgery. “It was absolutely crazy.”

Friends managed to hoist Mihal to safety with a rope after about 20 minutes. But the experience gave him quite a fright, particularly following the much-publicized recent death of a man in Florida who died when his bedroom fell into a sinkhole.

Mihal was waiting to hit his third shot, some 100 yards from the pin on the par 5, when he noticed a bathtub-looking indentation about knee deep just behind him on the fairway. At just one over par for the round, the golfer with a 6 handicap was on a roll.

Mihal remarked about how awkward it would be to hit out of the odd depression, and then walked over to give it a closer look and took one step onto it.

“It didn’t look unstable,” he said. “And then I was gone. I was just freefalling. It felt like forever, but it was just a second or two, and I didn’t know what I was going to hit. And all I saw was darkness.”

His golfing buddies didn’t see him fall into the hole, figured that he had tripped and fallen out of sight and even joked about a “magic trick.”

“He just thought it was some crazy magic trick or something,” Mihal said.

“I was looking around, clinging to the mud pile, trying to see if there was a way out,” he said. “At that point, I started yelling, “I need a ladder and a rope, and you guys need to get me out of here.”‘

A ladder that was hustled to the scene was too short, and Mihal’s damaged shoulder crimped his ability to climb.

“At some point, I said, `I need to get out of here. Now,”‘ Mihal recalled.

One of his golf partners made his way into the hole, converted his sweater into a splint for Mihal and tied a rope around his friend, who was pulled to safety.

“I felt fortunate I didn’t break both legs, or worse,” Mihal said.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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