Man falls through New York City pavement into 'rat-filled chasm'

·2 min read
Rats are a common problem in New York City - REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX
Rats are a common problem in New York City - REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX

A man was trapped in a hole teeming with rats for half an hour after a New York City pavement collapsed from under him last Saturday.

Leonard Shoulders dropped almost 15 feet into the sinkhole and was unable to cry for help out of fear the rats would get in his mouth.

“Rats crawling on him. He can’t move. He just… it was so bad,” the victim’s brother Greg White told NBC News.

“He didn’t wanna yell ’cause he was afraid there was gonna be rats going inside his mouth.”  

Mr Shoulders plunged more than 12 feet into the vault, breaking his arm and leg, when the ground gave way beneath him while he waited for a bus in the Bronx.

“He went down feet first," Mr White added.  “He was just standing and the sidewalk just — It was like a suction. Like a sinkhole. He just went down."

It took half an hour for the emergency services to extricate the 33-year-old New Yorker from the sinkhole.

He was taken to St Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where a spokesman said he was in a stable condition.

The incident laid bare two of the problems besetting New York City, the poor state of its infrastructure and the rampant rat population.

Desperate measures have been taken to try to control the rodent population, from drowning and poisoning to trapping. Experts believe that the rats may have become more aggressive during the pandemic.

From burst water mains to an antiquated public transport system, New Yorkers have wrestled with living in a city which at times appears to be falling apart.

The pavements are little better, with at least 35 reports of sections falling away since July last year, according to the New York Times.

In this case, city building inspectors are trying to establish who is responsible for the vault into which Mr Shoulders fell.


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 Reaction on social media reflected the frustration of New Yorkers at the state of the Big Apple.

"The city does nothing," wrote Pugspiracy on Twitter. 

"I live in queens rats running around in packs and when you put the garbage out they pile on to bite thru the bags. I've heard the garbage men when they pick bags up say "WHOA" among other choice words because the rats scurry. Last year it was not like this."

M K. Eesi suggested a solution, having observed the rubbish-filled plastic bags on the pavement.

"I'm wondering why not in thick cans? It seems like that would help?"

Vincent Felix had a different theory: "NYC mayor brought them in instead of Police...."