MAMARONECK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — First responders pulled off a daring rescue after a 13-year-old girl fell into an open drain pipe in Westchester County.
As CBS2’s Thalia Perez reported, the incident happened Sunday in Mamaroneck during an event to help storm victims.
Gabby Cifuentes said she and her sister were playing ball while their parents were in a nearby tent distributing essentials to families affected by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. It happened within seconds. Gabby was trapped and everyone was scrambling to save her.
There were tense moments as first responders worked to rescue Gabby after she slipped into the open utility vault/drain pipe.
The teen said she was playing ball with her 3-year-old sister at the corner of Old White Plains Road and Center Avenue when the ball rolled near the drain pipe opening on some grass.
It’s only a little more than a foot wide. But the next thing she knew, she had fallen into the hole up to her armpits.
“My feet were dangling there, and I struggled to keep myself up. It was scary because if I let go I would fall through. I didn’t know what was under,” Gabby said.
Rescuers arrived quickly.
“They were like all surrounding me and I didn’t know what was going to happen or how long I was going to stay there. I started breathing heavily and I had all the harnesses around me and they were scratching on me,” Gabby said.
She said it was her dad’s comforting voice that convinced her that she would eventually get out, but he said staying calm wasn’t easy.
“I’m scared a little bit more because police say there’s like power lines on the bottom, maybe a gas line,” Yovani Cifuentes said.
After about an hour, police said they finally freed Gabby and pulled her to safety. She has a message for the first responders.
“I would say thank you,” Gabby said. “It was a very scary experience to go through and they were calming me down and making sure that everything was OK.”
Gabby suffered minor scrapes and bruises and her parents said they’re thankful the outcome wasn’t worse. It’s unclear why or how the utility vault/drain pipe was open. But the girl’s parents said it’s a good time to remind the town to close off dangerous drain pipes.
CBS2’s Thalia Perez contributed to this report.