BLUE EARTH - A 7-year-old boy was pulled from a septic tank here on Monday, suffering only bruises.
"It couldn't have [gone] any better," said Scott Adams, chief deputy in the Faribault County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities received a call about 5:07 p.m. Monday from Chelsey Hledik, reporting that her son, Gavin, and nephew, Noah Laehn, both 7, had been playing in the yard when Noah stepped on a septic tank lid and fell in.
Officers were on the scene in about 10 minutes, Adams said. The site is on the north end of Blue Earth.
There are actually three septic tanks there, Adams noted.
"The first two (lids) were fastened and the third one was not; they screw down," he said.
"He stepped on it and fell in," Adams said. "It slid off or flipped over; we never determined that point."
Noah dropped 10 feet to the bottom, slipped and landed on his behind in as much as 2 feet of "water, sludge; common stuff in septic tanks," Adams said. "This was more liquid."
The tank had been drained the previous day.
"This could have been extremely bad," Adams said.
As it was, deputies still had to figure out how to get a soaked and tired little boy out of the hole.
"He was wet basically from his shoulders down," Adams said.
Noah managed to get up, stand on a pump and cling to a PVC pipe to keep himself out of the sludge.
"Doesn't make it any warmer or less smelly," Adams noted.
He said it took a lot of strength and concentration for the 7-year-old to maintain his balance on the small pump while deputies got a ladder and lowered it into the tank.
"The boy came halfway out of the hole and said he was tired," Adams said. "Pat (Campbell) and I reached down and pulled him out."
Deputies wrapped Noah in warm blankets until the Blue Earth Fire Department and Blue Earth Ambulance crew arrived to check him over and transport him to United Hospital District, where he was treated and released.
While that was happening, Noah's mom, Lissia Laehn, got a call from her sister.
"The first thing she said was, 'Don't panic.' Of course, you ask why shouldn't I panic?" Laehn said Wednesday.
Her first thought after Hledik told her Noah fell in the tank was what could have been.
"Was it full, empty? You wonder all these things," Laehn said. "If it was full, he probably would've drowned."
Noah knows how to swim, Laehn said, but she wasn't sure how well her son would have done fully clothed in the tank.
She and her husband, Aaron, connected with Noah in the emergency room.
"Just made sure he was OK," Laehn said. "We consoled him, and me and Aaron gave him a hug."
Noah was treated for hypothermia at UHD, but "he doesn't have a bump or bruise on him," Laehn said.
Noah needed one or two showers to get rid of the stink and even his clothes survived, Laehn said.
"The ambulance crew had taken them off and put them in a bag," she said. "We laundered them a couple of times; good to go."
She knows things could have been so much worse.
"If it hadn't been drained, he probably would have drowned," Laehn said. "I thought for sure he'd have broken his leg landing that hard, but he doesn't hardly have a scratch on him.
"We want to thank the local paramedics, hospital staff, police for their quick response, everything they did, getting him out and comforting him," Laehn said.
She gave special credit to another rescuer.
"Gavin, my nephew, ran for help and got his mom," Laehn said. "One of the heroes. He was pretty brave running for help."
Noah will be fine, but other incidents involving kids falling down tubes in the ground haven't turned out well. The Laehns want to keep other kids safe.
"Now that the snow's melting, double check those things," Laehn said. "It's not somewhere to play. Make sure everything's secure."
Adams added his own words of warning.
"Just make sure it's secured so kids can't fall or climb into the space and become trapped," he said. "Before myself and the other deputies settled things down, we screwed the cap down so we didn't have any other problems."