(BBC) — The family of a man who fell into a sinkhole brimming with rats in New York have spoken about how the incident left him traumatised and needing hospital treatment, local media report.
Leonard Shoulders was walking by a bus stop in the Bronx area on Saturday when the concrete cracked beneath his feet.
A chasm up to 4.5m (15ft) deep swallowed Mr Shoulders, trapping him underground for about 30 minutes.
New Yorkers have described reports of his ordeal as a “nightmare”.
“Rats crawling on him, he can’t move,” his brother, Greg White, told CBS New York. “He didn’t want to yell because he was afraid there were going to be rats inside his mouth.”
Firefighters were called to the scene, where a CCTV camera had captured the moment 33-year-old Mr Shoulders suddenly disappeared into the pavement.
“I looked down and the guy was only moving his hand,” one witness said.
Eventually, an emergency crew managed to rescue Mr Shoulders from the hole. Video showed him being wheeled into an ambulance on a stretcher.
He was taken to St Barnabas Hospital after suffering injuries to his arms, legs and face. As of Thursday, he remained there in a stable condition, the hospital told the New York Times.
“He’s traumatised,” his mother, Cindy White, told NBC New York. “He said he went straight down, and he was falling, falling, but the debris was falling and hitting him in the head.”
The man’s fall drew a visceral reaction from New Yorkers, many of whom described his ordeal as a “nightmare”.
Rats have long been prevalent in New York. Rodent experts say more rats have been coming out of hiding to find food during the coronavirus pandemic.
Saturday’s incident in the Bronx is under investigation. Local authorities said a section of the pavement had collapsed above a vault that was in a state of disrepair.
A fence was erected around the building, which inspectors have ordered to be vacated. It is not clear who owns the building, nor who is responsible for maintaining the pavement in front of it.
Mr Shoulder’s family have been shaken by the incident, with relatives telling the New York Times legal action was being considered.
“It was like a one out of million chance of that happening,” Mr White told CBS New York. “I was shocked. I was surprised. But you know, he’s breathing.”