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(AP) – An 11-year-old boy sucked into a flooded Wisconsin storm sewer was saved when an eagle-eyed firefighter saw the boy’s fingers pop through an opening in a manhole cover.
The astonishing rescue Tuesday evening came as storms pounded the southern half of the state and southeastern Minnesota.
The Calumet County Sheriff’s Office said the boy was playing with friends in a flooded drainage ditch after the rains passed around 6 p.m. in the Village of Harrison. He disappeared under the water and didn’t surface.
A dive team, sheriff’s deputies and volunteer firefighters responded. Deputy Fire Chief Wesley Pompa said that when they arrived they found a bystander trying to hold onto the boy but he was sucked into a culvert that led to the storm sewer.
Pompa said the water was rushing so quickly it would have sucked a full-grown man into the culvert.
The rescuers could do nothing except try to determine where the flow might take the boy. Pompa called the village road superintendent, Bob Kesler, to the scene to help map out the sewers.
Pompa and Kesler were standing on top of a manhole cover about 30 feet away from the ditch when Pompa saw the boy’s fingers pop through an opening in the cover. The boy had found air pocket just beneath the manhole cover and was hanging onto a ladder leading up to the manhole.
The firefighters wrenched the cover open. Pompa and Kesler lifted the boy to safety.
“He was hollering and talking to us and he was able to reach up for us,” Pompa said.
The boy was taken to the hospital, and authorities said he was alert and conscious after his ordeal. Pompa said he never got the boy’s name.
“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.”
A string of storms began moving through the region last week, flooding streets and farm fields and cutting power. One man was killed in Madison as he tried to escape from a flooded ditch last week.