Newly released prisoner dives into septic tank to save girl

(Photo credit: KPHO/CNN)

(Photo credit: KPHO/CNN)

ARIZONA (KPHO) — A 2-year-old girl is recovering after falling through a damaged septic tank lid and nearly drowning.

One man dove in after her while another got her breathing again.

The girl was walking with her mother Saturday morning on West Papago Road, near the city of Maricopa, when she stepped on the lid, said Pinal County Sheriff’s spokesman Tim Gaffney.

Gaffney said the tank’s plastic cover had apparently collapsed under the girl’s footing.

Some good Samaritans attending a swap meet nearby heard the mom’s screams.

Henry Ricketts was one of them. Ricketts, newly released from prison, went in head first to try to save the child.

“I inhaled some of the nasty water, so I had to come back up,” Ricketts told CBS 5 News.

Eyes closed, Ricketts couldn’t find the baby on the first try. Plenty of time had passed with no sign of the child.

Eyewitness Barbara Fowler described the scene.

“They pulled him back up, but they couldn’t find her,” Fowler said. “Immediately after that, another gentleman went in head-first, and they had a guy on either side holding each of his feet and dropped him down in there and he dug around and came up with that baby, by its arm.”

Fowler said the child was lifeless when they brought her up. Immediately, a young woman, later identified as a nurse, stepped in and started CPR and mouth-to-mouth and revived the girl.

“We saw that baby breathe again,” Fowler said.

Gaffney said the child was taken to Cardon Children’s Hospital where she is recovering.

Three firefighters continued to administer first aid on the ride to the hospital. Two relatives, one identifying himself as the girl’s grandfather, remained at the scene and held each other as they spoke to police and fire officials before making the trek to the hospital themselves.

Rescuers were not treated for any injuries, although Ricketts had some large, superficial scratches on his back that were probably the result of his contact with a pipe in the tank, first responders said.

Fowler says what she witnessed showed her the true human spirit.

“I’m proud to be in their presence, to know people come together like that,” she said. “They were astounding.”

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