It likely was a second of confusion followed by unforgettable heart-pounding terror.
Sonny L. Gabel of Conneautville was driving east on Robinson Road in Summerhill Township at 4:24 p.m. Thursday no doubt assuming, as we all do, that the road just keeps going.
What he didn’t expect — why would he — and apparently did not see in time, according to state police, was that about 900 feet west of Inlet Road, a 10- to 15-foot section of the entire road was gone, replaced by a yawning chasm of high, fast-running water.
Gabel and his 11-year-old passenger were both wearing seatbelts as the 2000 Chevrolet Malibu they were riding in plunged into the hole.
Gabel, who could not be reached Friday for an interview, was apparently OK but the 11-year-old was taken from the scene to Meadville Medical Center in a private vehicle with unknown injuries, according to state police.
The washout of Robinson Road appears to be the most significant and long-term damage caused by the heavy storms that dumped about an inch of rain in an hour on some spots in Crawford County and left many with as much as 2 inches of rain for the day.
Longtime Summerhill Township Supervisor David Johns, who inspected the site Friday, said that it appeared the heavy rain washed out a beaver dam upstream on the stream that usually runs under the road. When the dam broke, it let loose enough water to wash out the road.
Exactly how long the road will be closed is still uncertain, Johns said, but it appears it could be weeks. The water was still high on Friday, so it was hard to determine the condition of the culvert that used to channel water under the road.
Johns said that to him, the culvert appeared to have sustained some damage. Until that is known, it won’t be clear how long and how much money it will take to fix the road.