Continued manhole issues in U.S. 35 lane keeps portion of highway blocked

DAYTON — The left lane of U.S. 35 west at the Smithville Road exit remained closed Wednesday morning after the City of Dayton Water Department responded to the area Tuesday after issues continue being reported about the same manhole, including a serious crash Christmas Eve.

“We just got report from one of our supervisors on Route 35 west of Smithville...a couple days ago there was a manhole lid that caused a traffic accident,” a City of Dayton Water Department dispatcher told the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center around 8 a.m. Tuesday. “That manhole lid is missing again. Could we get an officer out there to block that area until we can get a crew out there, so that it does not cause another accident?”

The call came just hours after a News Center 7 report about the manhole cover causing a Christmas Eve crash on U.S. 35 that seriously injured a 10-year-old girl.

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The manhole cover was the subject of multiple 911 calls Christmas Eve and resulted in serious injuries to a Brookville girl in the backseat of her grandmother’s minivan.

Issues with the cover were first reported Christmas Eve around 8:20 a.m. when a truck driver spotted the cover was not over the manhole. Just hours later around 10:45 a.m. 10-year-old Alonna Thomas was hurt when the van drove over the manhole, sending the sewer lid through the floorboard of the van.

News Center 7 has requested public records to determine if there were any other issues reported involving the manhole prior to Christmas Eve morning.

Thomas suffered two broken legs in the crash and in the days since the Christmas Eve crash also developed appendicitis and required surgery Monday night, Thomas’ mother Amanda Helfinstine said.

City of Dayton Water Department workers and ODOT were blocking the left lane of westbound U.S. 35 near Smithville Road in Dayton Tuesday and had the manhole cover removed.

“Once a state or U.S. route enters a municipality it typically becomes their responsibility,” said Matt Bruning, Press Secretary for ODOT, adding that the agency was there to assist with traffic control.

The workers remained at the scene until around 4 p.m., when they cleared the area, but kept construction barrels blocking the left lane of the highway.

The City of Dayton and ODOT has not yet said what repairs might be needed for the manhole, but did say the city’s water department responded to the manhole on Christmas Eve.

“The accident involving the manhole cover on U.S. Rt. 35 was located within an ODOT construction zone. This was part of an ODOT-administered contract to expand U.S. Rt. 35 from two lanes to three lanes and involved the installation of a storm sewer and associated manhole covers,” said Bryan Taulbee, spokesman for the City of Dayton. “ODOT and the City of Dayton are investigating the cause of the accident. ODOT has shut down the lane where the accident occurred pending the outcome of the investigation.”

ODOT reported in October that all 2021 paving was completed for the project in the area and the widened portion of the highway was opened to traffic on Oct. 20. The entire U.S. 35 expansion project is expected to be completed by this Summer.