A New Jersey mom jumped down into a manhole on Thursday to rescue her toddler who had fallen several feet into the water below, just in time before her son was swept away.
The 14-month-old boy was playing in the Kawameeh Park in Union County before 11 a.m. near a pair of swings. It was there in an area where a patch of grass was missing and the manhole cover was opened that the boy suddenly dropped out of sight. His mother went in right after him but not before she called 911. In the chaos, she dropped her phone above but authorities were able to ping its location.
But before first responders even arrived, the mother got her son and herself back up out of the 6-foot deep hole. How she did that was was a miracle since there's no access ladder.
“She called 911 then she realized he was floating in the sewer water. So she dropped her phone and jumped in the hole because he was going to an area where the pipe narrows and she couldn't reach him. She got them both out," said Battalion Chief Anthony Schimdtberg of the Union Township Fire Department.
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"When we got here they were both soaked, crying and upset, but nothing physically that was wrong with them," Schimdtberg added.
Tamisha Balok-Boafo lives across the street from the park where her own children play almost daily, but three weeks ago, the park was under water after Hurricane Ida's remnants lashed the region with several inches of rain. Authorities say the sewer covers and manholes are often lifted by the force of the water and that appears to be what happened at the park.
Another neighbor says he called the township a week ago after his brother noticed two open manholes in the park.
"My 7-year-old daughter always wants to go there and I say no, we cannot go because there's two holes. I even called the town one time and the hole's still there and today it happened," said Juan Flores.
Union Township manager Don Travisano says he's absolutely certain that there was no prior notice that any manhole covers were lifted up in the park or any other in the area. However, he conceded that after this month's devastating storms, the township is still trying to pick up the pieces and something certainly could have fallen through the crack.