Couple That Donated Corvette Visits Sinkhole
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - A Tampa, Florida, couple who donated one of the cars swallowed by a sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum said the car was "part of the family."
Kevin and Linda Helmintoller told the Daily News they donated the red 2001 Mallett Hammer Conversion ZO6 Corvette just six weeks ago. They had not even traveled yet to see it at the museum before a sinkhole opened up early Wednesday morning and swallowed their car and seven other classic gems.
The couple visited the museum in Bowling Green on Saturday. Kevin Helmintoller said his car appeared to be underneath the others at the bottom of the hole.
"It definitely hurts, and I've cried," he said. "There's no question I'm definitely upset, but there's no way to conceive of anything like this."
Kevin Helmintoller said he discovered Corvettes at 16, when his aunt let him drive hers.
"I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," he said. "From that moment on, I said. ‘I'm going to own one of these.' "
He bought his first Corvette in 1996 and has owned a total of nine. The couple currently is on the waiting list for a Stingray.
Kevin Helmintoller said the Mallett Hammer that they donated had been on many racetracks and was so heavily modified that it was a little difficult to drive on the street. Donating it to the museum seemed like a good option.
"They would care about it as much as we do," Linda Helmintoller said.
Work to repair the Skydome, where the cars were located, should begin today, museum Executive Director Wendell Strode said. Stablizing the area so the cars can be retrieved from the sinkhole could take five to 10 days. The local fire department has estimated the hole is about 40 feet across and 25 to 30 feet deep.
General Motors Design in Warren, Mich., has said it will manage the painstaking work of repairing the eight prized vehicles.
But Kevin Helmintoller says he isn't sure much is left of his beloved Corvette.
"It appears ours is by far the lowest" in the sinkhole, he said. "There's no sign of it."
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)