Pa. Responders Rescue Tot From Storm Drain

Pa. Responders Rescue Tot From Storm Drain

News Nov 13, 2012

Nov. 13--DUNMORE -- The 18-month-old boy who fell into a storm drain on Monroe Avenue late Saturday improved to stable condition on Monday.

Borough Police Chief Pat Reese provided new details Monday on what led to the incident -- which remains under investigation -- and also raised questions about the hazard posed by the design of the storm drain, one that is common in that area of the borough.

The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. when the 18-month-old boy walked to his mother's boyfriend's car parked in front of their home in the 1500 block of Monroe Avenue, Chief Reese said. Chief Reese declined to identify the child or the man as the investigation had not yet determined that any crime occurred.

With one hand holding the hand of the 18-month-old, the man used his other hand to place a car seat holding his own infant child into the backseat of his car -- which was parked in front of a storm drain.

Though police are not yet certain of exactly what happened next, the man somehow lost his grip on the child's hand and the boy tumbled into the storm drain.

The man then ran inside the home, told his girlfriend to call 911 and ran back outside to move the car away from the drain. Borough police officers arrived at that point.

The first officer to arrive at the scene Saturday managed to squeeze himself though the drain up to his chest in an attempt to reach the child though he was unsuccessful, Chief Reese said.

Having looked inside, the officer saw that the child had fallen about five feet down into the drain and was submerged head first in about two feet of 47-degree water, Chief Reese said.

When borough firefighters arrived they used the jaws of life to pry open the drain and prop up the cement block at the top of it in order to reach the boy.

The unconscious child was immediately taken in a waiting ambulance and, while en route to the hospital, Lackawanna Ambulance paramedics managed to bring back a faint heartbeat in him, Chief Reese said.

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The entire ordeal lasted roughly eight minutes, Chief Reese said.

"They truly are heroes," Chief Reese said of the responders.

The boy was ultimately transported to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville where he improved from critical to stable condition on Monday. The boy was being transported to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on Monday for doctors there to check to see if he had suffered any brain injuries, Chief Reese said.

The drain into which the child fell is of the same design as many storm drains in the Green Ridge neighborhood.

Rather than a grate over an opening in the surface of the road, the drain is essentially just a hole cut into the curb coupled with a bowl-like depression in the side of the road.

That depression leads into the opening in the curb, which is not blocked by anything.

The amount of space between the lip of the depression and the concrete block over it varies from curb to curb.

A similar drain Chief Reese pointed out in the 1500 block of Jefferson Avenue had an opening of between 6.5 and 7 inches. He said the Monroe Avenue drain's opening was slightly larger. The Monroe Avenue drain was dismantled in the process of rescuing the child and is now covered with plywood and surrounded by barricades.

"It makes you look at these drains a lot differently," Chief Reese said.

The Scranton Sewer Authority, which maintains the drains, was notified of the incident on Saturday, Chief Reese said. Efforts to reach SSA officials were not successful Monday.

As far as the police investigation into the incident, Chief Reese said the child's mother's boyfriend has been cooperative with officers and so far has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Still, Chief Reese said the investigation is continuing in order to make certain that what occurred was in fact an accident.

Contact the writer: domalley@timesshamrock.com, Follow @domalleytt on Twitter

Copyright 2012 - The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

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The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Denis J. O'Malley
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