Firefighters in rain-soaked Harrison, Wisconsin, were summoned to save a boy who got swept into a storm drain.
Madison has been the focus of severe weather, with lots of flooding. Around 6 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 28, a group of boys were playing in a flooded drainage ditch when disaster struck.
The 11-year-old boy was splashing happily about in the muddy water when he got too close to a drainage culvert. Despite someone trying to hang on to him, the boy was sucked into the culvert.
When it became clear that the boy had been sucked into the storm drain system, Deputy Fire Chief Wesley Pompa realized that the only way to save the child would be to intercept him somewhere downstream.
Pompa called village road superintendent, Bob Kesler, who brought maps of the drainage system.
The pair were standing atop a manhole cover about 30 feet away from the culvert entrance, studying the maps, when Pompa looked down and saw a fingertip.
"I looked down, and I seen the boy's finger come up through the hole [in a manhole cover]," he told WFRV. "We instantly dropped down to our knees to start prying the cover open."
Once the firemen got the heavy cover off the hole, the saw the boy clinging to a ladder.
"We could hear him yelling, which was an awesome sign," Pompa said. "We reached down and grabbed him and pulled him up."
Miraculously LuckyThe amount of luck involved in the rescue of this youth cannot be exaggerated. The odds of his survival were too small to calculate.
After the boy was sucked into the culvert, he was whisked down the pipe until he came to the manhole cover.
Even though the entire street was submerged under 6 inches of water, there was an air pocket trapped under the manhole cover. The boy popped up into the air pocket and by sheer luck was able to grab the ladder.
The boy had to cling to the ladder for 45 minutes as the water rushed by, tugging at him. Even after the water level dropped, the boy had to cling to the ladder—if he had fallen back into the pipe he would have been carried further into the drain system.
Even then, the boy needed almost a miraculous twist of fate to be saved. There was no way for the 11-year-old to lift the cast-iron manhole cover. If Pompa had not happened to be standing in the right spot, and had not happened to look down at the right moment, the poor boy would have been stuck in the drain system with no way out.
"I just thank God he was alive and he'd made it that long," Pompa said. "It could have gone a million different ways but this one way it worked out for him."