A forklift operator found himself suddenly waist-deep in a viscid and aromatic pool of cooking oil and soy sauce, following the collapse of a warehouse floor in East Rutherford, N.J., on Monday.
Shortly after noon, Danny Rodriguez was moving pallets near the loading dock of a warehouse unit rented by the trucking company AM Express Freight, when the floor gave way. Mr. Rodriguez, his forklift, and several containers of oil and soy sauce plunged into a hole that witnesses described as six to 10-feet deep and 30 to 40-feet wide. Rodriguez escaped from the warehouse unit – which at this point resembled the world's largest wok – with only minor injuries.
"Fortunately for the operator, the forklift went straight down and didn’t tip to the side because then he could have really been hurt," said borough Police Chief Larry Minda, in an interview with The Record, a North Jersey daily newspaper.
Authorities declared the warehouse unit and two adjacent ones unsafe and ordered them evacuated.
It is not clear what caused the collapse. The Record quotes property manager, Bruce Jordan, who said that the unit's reinforced concrete floor sat atop a forgotten basement. "We had no idea it was hollow under there,” he said. “We thought the floor was built over dirt."
The news aggregator site New Jersey Online attributes the collapse to a sinkhole, an underground hollow caused by the erosion of sedimentary rock, such as limestone or dolomite, by groundwater or, in some instances, burst water mains.