14-month-old boy falls down manhole at NJ playground, mother jumps in to save him

The mother was able to pull her toddler out of the 7-foot deep manhole before sewer waters swept him away.

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Thursday, September 23, 2021
Toddler rescued by mother after falling in open manhole in NJ
The toddler fell in an open manhole at a playground in Union, New Jersey.

UNION, N.J. -- A 14-month-old boy fell into a manhole filled with sewer waters at a New Jersey playground and is alive thanks to his quick-acting mother.

The mother, whose name has not been released, noticed that her toddler went missing Thursday morning at the playground in Union, a suburb approximately 15 miles west of New York City.

She found him inside of a 7-foot deep manhole containing approximately 2 feet of water, a depth that reached the child's chin.

She called 911, but her son started to drift away.

The mother then jumped into the hole and grabbed the child before water could sweep him down a tunnel and into an underground area that would have been too small to access.

"I think when your child is in a situation like that, you'll do anything possible to save them. It was more amazing that she was able to get them both out because there is no access ladder out there. She must've gripped onto the ledge and jumped out of there," said Anthony Schmidtberg of the Union Fire Department.

Both mother and child were not seriously injured, though the child may have ingested some sewer water.

"I hear the mother was already out of the hole, soaked, crying, very upset, but nothing physically was wrong with them, and she treated them on scene," Schmidtberg said.

They were both taken to an area hospital to be checked out as a precaution.

Flooding from Hurricane Ida may have generated enough pressure in the underlying sewer to blow the manhole cover off.

"You just have to be careful. Watch where you step. Check, especially if there is a storm, you should never go, when you cannot see it, in the water, these things do pop up, and you can fall, and you're not going to be able to get back out," Schmidtberg said.

Officials are going around to all local parks to make sure each manhole is covered.