Tuesday, September 9, 2008

3yo recovering after 'miraculous' drain rescue

A three-year-old girl is recovering after being sucked down a storm drain, swept along a pipe and hurled into a swollen river as she splashed in puddles in a park, police said.

Leona Baxter suffered cuts and bruises when was pulled into the drain in a water-logged field and dragged through a concrete pipe for about 50 metres on Monday (local time).

Her father ran to the river bank, spotted her floating face down in the river and pulled her to the bank where the emergency services rescued them.

She had stopped breathing and was not moving. After some first aid, she coughed, was sick and started breathing again.

"We really are the luckiest parents alive," her tearful mother Beverley Baxter, 32, told a news conference. "Someone was watching over us."

Leona banged her head on a rock in the tunnel and scraped her arms and legs, but otherwise appeared to have emerged remarkably unscathed from her ordeal.

"She had swallowed quite a lot of water and sustained some bruising, but miraculously escaped more serious injury," Sergeant Keith Wardle of Durham police said.

Her father Mark Baxter, 34, a Royal Air Force communications officer, said he had feared the worst when he realised she and the family dog had both been sucked down the drain.

"I stuck my arm down the hole but I couldn't feel anything," he said.

"I ran across to the river and saw what I thought was Leona's coat. It wasn't - it was Leona floating face down in the river. I jumped in and grabbed her."

Investigators think the drain cover in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, may have been dislodged after days of torrential rain and storms across north-east England.

Leona told her father she remembers sinking and trying to do "star jumps" to stay afloat, but couldn't because the pipe was too narrow.

Cuddling a toy elephant, she smiled and giggled as she posed for pictures for the media with her parents and sister Kiah in hospital.

"She's got bumps and scrapes, but she's demanding ice cream and chocolate now, so she must be okay," her father said.


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