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Driver escapes injury when manhole cover flies off road

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A Waikiki man is counting his blessings after a freak accident on Ala Moana Boulevard yesterday morning, when a sewer manhole cover exploded off the road, went airborne, bounced off the ground and then struck the undercarriage of his Jeep.

Krzysztof "Kris" Rafael, 25, said the incident happened as he was traveling Ewa-bound on Ala Moana near the makai entrance to Ala Moana Center at about 10 a.m.

Rafael said that as a van about 30 feet in front of him passed the cover, he saw it inexplicably fly upward like a coin someone just flipped.

It happened so quickly he didn’t have time to stop, he said. Rafael said if he had tried to brake, the trajectory of the cover might have flung it into the windshield and injured him more severely.

Instead, it hit the belly of the rented Jeep. The force of the bounce caused the front of his vehicle to rise about 2 feet and deployed both air bags.

"I feel very lucky," he said.

Rafael was taken to the hospital after complaining of back pains, but then released.

Markus Owens, spokes­man for the Department of Environmental Serv­ices, confirmed the cover was for a sewage manhole.

City officials are trying to determine what caused the release. Meanwhile, the cover has been sealed into place, Owens said.

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