A sinkhole near Town Fair Tire at Jetport Plaza in South Portland that partially swallowed a car Wednesday morning was likely caused by a water main break, authorities say. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

A driver intending to drop off a vehicle for service at a South Portland tire dealer Wednesday was able to escape safely when the car instead dropped into a water-filled sinkhole in the parking lot.

The owner of the 2009 Honda Civic was dropping it off around 5 a.m. Wednesday at Town Fair Tire at Jetport Plaza when the car sank into the hole, which was several feet wide and an unknown depth.

The sinkhole, which most likely formed because of a private water service break, was in the parking lot just a few feet from the front entrance to Town Fair Tire. The business remained open.

“They thought they were driving into a puddle, but the car went into a sinkhole,” said Lt. Kevin Theriault, who based his remarks on a preliminary report.

The driver, whose name was unavailable, climbed out uninjured through the front passenger door, Theriault said. The driver-side door was pinned inside the hole.

The car had been removed Wednesday night, but the hole was still filled with water and cordoned off with police tape. Workers at Town Fair Tire in the Jetport Plaza off Western Avenue were mostly ignoring the gaping hole in the pavement outside the shop.

Theriault said police contacted the Portland Water District after the incident. The car was towed.

Michelle Clements, spokesperson for the Portland Water District, said the district did not send a repair team because the water line that broke is privately owned. It will be up to the property owners to repair the break, she said. There are a number of similar private water service arrangements in South Portland.

Jetport Plaza is home to several businesses including Town Fair Tire, a Staples office store, a Burlington Clothing Store, an Aroma Joe’s Coffee and a UPS store. A sign posted in the Staples window said the store was closed because of a water issue.

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