The National Corvette Museum opened its doors again Thursday, a day after a sinkhole opened up inside it and swallowed eight valuable 'vettes.
The vehicles at Bowling Green, Kentucky's National Corvette Museum slid into a 40-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up in the facility's yellow Sky Dome wing. The museum unofficially estimates it caused millions of dollars in damage.
While visitors can come back to the museum Thursday, the Sky Dome area will be blocked off indefinitely.
Motion detectors alerted security that something was amiss shortly after 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, said museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli. An employee who first walked into the room "has been in shock all day," she said.
"When you go in there, it's unreal," said Frassinelli. "The hole is so big, it makes the Corvettes look like little Matchbox cars."
The news triggered a collective worldwide gasp from the Corvette Nation.
"I was shocked," said Frazer Bharucha, 47, a Corvette owner since age 17. "We're talking about iconic cars that have been around for years."
Using remote-controlled drones, geologists and engineers from nearby Western Kentucky University have already explored the sinkhole and determined that the Sky Dome suffered no structural damage, Frassinelli said. "There's a cave down there," she said, adding that the museum is only a short drive away from Mammoth Cave National Park.
The painful losses have been tallied: Of the eight cars that fell, six were donated to the museum by Corvette enthusiasts, and two are owned by the car's maker, General Motors.
Here's the museum's list of cars that went down the hole:
-- a 1962 "Black Corvette"
-- a 1984 PPG pace car
-- a 2009 ZR1 "Blue Devil"
-- the 1992 white "1 Millionth Corvette"
-- a 1993 ruby red "40th Anniversary Corvette"
-- a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
-- the 2009 white "1.5 Millionth Corvette"
-- a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder
The total value of the damaged cars is substantial, said museum executive director Wendell Strode. Almost all the cars have been removed from the room. "They've been setting up ramps to get the last one out," said Frassinelli. That remaining Corvette is suspended in a precarious position on a riser directly above the sinkhole.
Bharucha, of the Long Island Corvette Owners Association, knows the museum well, having visited it at least six times. "There's a sense of awe and you get a lump in your throat when you walk inside."