The owner of an O’Brien well drilling company died after a sinkhole opened underneath him, sending him into the hole followed by his work truck.

Johnn Clyde Smith, 52, was last seen by cultivators in a field where Smith was drilling a center pivot irrigation pump around 1 p.m. Saturday. An associate of Smith’s business, Smith Well Drilling, went to the site in Trenton near Lancaster Correctional Institution to check on him after he failed to report back to the office.

“He knew he was overdue,” said Gilchrist County Sheriff’s spokesman Major Tony Smith.

“A sinkhole in the ground just opened up, he fell in and the truck fell on top of him,” said Maj. Smith.

The associate found Smith’s 5,500-pound well drilling truck about 15 feet into the hole.

“He found the truck upended,” said Maj. Smith. “He feared the worst then called us.”
That was around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, Maj. Smith said.

He said it took about four hours to get the truck out of the sink hole, and then a few more hours to recover Smith’s body.

“We had to call in the road department to help pull the truck out,” said Maj. Smith.

He said that it was difficult retrieving the body because the sides of the sinkhole kept trying to cave in. Smith’s body was found under about five feet of soil in the 35-foot wide sinkhole.


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