Md. Firefighter Recalls Dramatic Rescue From Well

Anne Arundel County firefighters rescued a 10-year-old girl from a Pasadena well.


Feb. 01--It all began with a game of fetch.

When Yana Prendergast, 21, of Pasadena, turned and ran to catch the ball, she heard the dog barking as it looked down into a well. That's when she realized the 10-year-old girl had fallen in.

"When I looked down, I saw a metal pole. The first thing I thought was she probably hit her head. All I saw was a metal pole, the wood over top of her. And then her in water," Prendergast said.

"She was crying. She definitely said she wanted her mom and wanted her spelling homework to be done."

Monday's accident in the Green Haven neighborhood ended happily. A specially trained Anne Arundel County firefighter was lowered into the well, got a harness around the girl and pulled her to safety.

The girl's family has declined to speak publicly about the incident after making an initial appearance on a Baltimore television station. The unidentified girl is reported to be home and recovering.

Division Chief Keith Swindle, a fire department spokesman, said such calls are uncommon. The well was covered with a deteriorated piece of wood that in turn was covered with snow.

"In my more than 30 years (on the job), I can only think of four times," Swindle said. "Maybe one in every five or six years, if that."

Prendergast told the girl to stay calm while she went for help. Then she ran to the girl's baby sitter, who called 911.

"I felt terrified," Prendergast said.

"I felt like I could have done something, but at the same time I felt guilty because I was the one who was supposed to be watching her."

Paramedics quickly arrived, began talking with the girl, pumped air into the well and brought in specialized units for the rescue.

Firefighter Donna McGuire, who is stationed with the Technical and Confined Spaces Rescue Team in Severna Park, was suspended from a tripod and lowered into the well to pull the girl to the surface.

McGuire said she was face-to-face with the girl. Firefighters were concerned the 10-year-old might have been injured, suffered hypothermia or had trouble breathing in the oxygen-deficient environment.

When McGuire reached the girl, she decided to use a harness to attach the young girl to her.

"We saw there was water at the bottom, and the young lady appeared to be wet. She was standing in water and her hair was wet," McGuire said.

"She was upset, she was crying. We were worried about the lid falling down on her. But she did a great job."

The rescue took 35 minutes.

"It was very important to me as a parent to bring her up to her family. That was my focus, that was my goal, and to succeed without any further injuries to her," McGuire said.

"We practice this scenario quite often. Everyone knew their job that day and we were able to do it quickly and efficiently."

Swindle said he has been in contact with the family and was told the young girl returned to school Friday. Prendergast said she was very happy to hear the girl was unharmed.

"It made me feel a lot better," she said. "It made me feel like I did something good."

"As a team," McGuire said, "we were able to use our training and save a little girl that day. It's very rewarding and very comforting to know she's home safe."

"The first responders on the scene did a fantastic job sizing up the area ... so when the rescue team showed up everything went smoothly."

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