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Campton woman recalls Florida condo's collapse in sinkhole

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 31. 2013 8:38PM
Debbi Ward of Campton’s villa at Summer Bay Resorts in Clermont, Fla., collapsed in a sinkhole. (COURTESY)

CAMPTON - Debbi Ward was enjoying a bath in her Florida time-share villa on Aug. 11 when she heard a boom and felt the world start to move.

Within minutes, Ward and her family were standing outside, watching as their condo, containing all of their belongings, snapped away from an adjoining section and collapsed into a massive sinkhole.

"As we were leaving, the tiles were coming off the roof and glass was breaking," she said Saturday in a telephone interview from her home in Campton. "Everything just started to happen all at once."

"There was a lot of anxiety. We were afraid and we were running on adrenaline," she said.

The sinkhole forced the collapse of a portion of the Florida resort villa - just minutes from Disney World, Reuters reported.

Fire officials said another section of the villa was slowly sinking. About 30 percent of the three-story structure in the Summer Bay Resort collapsed, according to Reuters.

Resort officials said dozens of families were evacuated and no injuries were reported, Reuters said. Local media reports said the sinkhole was about 50 feet wide and at least 15 feet deep. Resort officials said that 48 of the units were probably a total loss.

Ward was at her Summer Bay Resorts villa in Clermont, Fla., which is near Orlando, for a one-week stay with her sister, Faith Clark, and Clark's sons, Grant, 16, and Liam, 13. Ward said her sister called the resort's front desk to ask if they had felt an earthquake.

"They laughed at her and said they don't have earthquakes in Florida," Ward said. "We told them they better get someone up there because the villa is moving."

Inside the condo were the types of things anyone might bring for a weeklong vacation: computers, cellphones, car keys, an Amazon Kindle book reader, clothes, jewelry and cash. All of those belongings, except the clothes that the family was wearing as they rushed outside, are now underground.

"Anything that was in there was gone," she said. "It just caved in. It's a total loss. They just can't get to it."

Ward said she is grateful that nobody in her family was injured, but said she has found herself in the middle of two insurance companies pointing fingers at the other.

She said the Summer Bay Resorts insurance company won't cover losses from a sinkhole, and suggested she file a claim with her homeowner's insurance company. Her homeowner's insurance company told her it won't cover losses from a sinkhole, and suggested she file a claim with the resort's insurer.

"So it seems like we're just getting the runaround," she said. "It's frustrating because we went down there with the idea that we were going to have a good time and we've lost everything."

She said the American Red Cross gave her $100 to buy clothes and food and that the resort put her up in another condo for the rest of her stay.

"It was on the second floor and the first thing we did was go out on the deck," she said.

"We decided that we would be able to jump from there to the ground if we had to."

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