Verona resident Luis Perez was settling down in his hotel room just before midnight Monday when he heard a commotion. Then, suddenly, the power went out.
Perez left the building to report the outage and discovered a villa about 200 feet from his at the Summer Bay Resort in Clermont, Fla. slowly collapsing into a massive sinkhole.
“You can see one of the buildings had a tilt in it and had a big crack in the foundation,” said Perez, who is visiting Disney with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. “You can tell it’s a sinkhole because the grass line is level across and then it dipped down.”
The sinkhole gave way slowly enough for all 105 guests to be safely evacuated from the building. No one was injured, according to news reports.
Perez said he could hear the wood cracking and watch the building give way to the shifting earth below. When gas lines cracked, onlookers were asked to step further back from the area. Many stuck around to watch the natural phenomenon until the earlier morning hours.
Perez said he stayed at the same resort on his honeymoon. This summer, he and his wife decided to return with their daughter for her first Disney trip. The resort is located just six miles from Walt Disney World.
Meanwhile back in Verona, Perez’s mother-in-law, Linda Graf, said she learned about the sinkhole where her family was staying when she got a call from a news network at 8 a.m. Monday morning.
“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk when CNN told me what happened,” Graf said.
She said she was relieved to speak to her daughter later in the day and learn they were safe and eating breakfast.
The Perez family’s vacation plans have been mostly unaffected by the sinkhole except for the sleep they lost due to news media and helicopters swarming into the area that night.
“I wanted to make it seem it was normal for my daughter so she won’t be frightened,” he said.
The 54-year-old field service technician said he has not been dissuaded from vacationing in Florida in the future.
“You can’t think about not going someplace because something might happen. That leaves out every tropical island because there might be a storm,” he said.
Furthermore, the native New Yorker said he learned early in life to expect anything during a summer vacation.
He said he’ll never forget the childhood summer in Brooklyn when a steam explosion caused the manholes to blow out in his neighborhood.
“I always remember that vividly,” he said.
Perez and his family plan to return from vacation on Saturday.