Sinkhole 'victim' arrested
Police: Driver purposely disregarded roadblock

DULUTH - The story a Duluth man told police about his Chevy being devoured by a sinkhole has collapsed upon further investigation, police said Monday.

For reasons unknown, Ira Strong, 32, purposefully drove his 1995 Chevrolet Caprice across a portion of West Liddell Road damaged when torrential rains washed out the Duluth roadway in late September, police said.

Gwinnett DOT had closed off the roadway with barrels and warning tape after flooding made the area dangerous, but Strong, who was not injured, told police they had been moved.

That's true, police said, but it was Strong who moved them.

Investigators called Strong's story into question when a witness came forward after seeing news reports in which Strong lied, police said.

The male witness said he watched from his back porch on Sept. 28 as the vehicle's driver tried to avoid the barrels by driving on a nearby sidewalk, then back into the road, which collapsed.

"Shortly after, (the witness) saw a person climb out of the hole and run back to the barrels ... and move them, making a gap large enough for a vehicle," said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli. "I don't know what (Strong's) particular motive was."

The drama didn't end there.

Police said when Strong returned the following day, he found his car windows smashed, the seats ripped and speakers stolen from the rear deck. Detectives continue to investigate the validity of those claims, Schiralli said.

"They'll (investigate) viable leads or any improprieties in the incident report," he said.

Strong was arrested Friday after investigators determined he purposely disregarded the roadblock, Schiralli said. He faces traffic charges including failure to drive within a single lane and ignoring a traffic control device. He's also charged with misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer and tampering with evidence.

Strong posted $5,200 bond at the Gwinnett County Jail a day after his arrest. Jail records indicate he is unemployed.

Schiralli said the roadway remains closed. An official said a replacement culvert made of 72-inch, reinforced concrete will replace the failed culvert. The work is expected to be covered by stormwater fees.