Action 9: Woman in hospital after sprinkler creates ice on road

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A woman ended up in the hospital after someone left a sprinkler running and the water froze on the road, but no one is taking responsibility for it.

Linda Bates was driving her pickup truck to work along E. Hudson Boulevard in Gastonia.  She says a sprinkler was spraying the street, the water was turning to ice, and she couldn't stop.  "It just started doing its own thing. I had no control whatsoever of it," she said.  "Very, very scary."

Her truck slid down the hill and hit a guard rail.  She ended up with stitches and her truck ended up heavily damaged.  

The sprinkler belongs to a neighborhood, Willow Creek, but Bates got a letter from the neighborhood, saying it's not at fault, that the landscaper, Southern Shade Tree Company, handles the sprinklers.  Action 9 went to Southern's office in Pineville.  It said it had turned off Willow Creek's system for the winter and that someone must have turned it back on.  Maintenance manager Zach Smith said, "All the insulation was ripped off, the water meter was turned on, so someone had definitely tampered with it."

He says it's a fairly common problem.  People wait for landscapers to shut off their systems for the season and, then, turn them back on themselves to water their own lawns or wash their vehicles without paying for the water.  That could fall under a crime in North Carolina: Injury to real or personal property, a misdemeanor.  

None of this makes Bates feel any better.  "Nobody wants to take the blame for this," she said.  She wishes whoever left the water on knew it could have cost her her life.  

Action 9 asked the landscaper if there are surveillence cameras near the sprinkler that was turned on so it may be possible to figure out who messed with the system.  It said it does not.